Nonsworn Agencies Need Access to Classified Information

Recently, I was sitting in a meeting with some of my peers. The group was made up of people from schools, private security representing all aspects of business, and a hand full of local law enforcement personnel.

One of the presentations was given by an FBI agent who was speaking about the agency’s new USP3 intelligence-sharing program. The program sounded great. It had all kinds of bells and whistles, and was extremely user-friendly. I actually got excited, thinking there might finally be a program out there that would provide meaningful intelligence information to us non-law enforcement types. Then the first slide came up, and the first line said “unclassified information.”

Unclassified usually means yesterday’s news. No matter how well intended, unclassified information is rarely better than CNN from two days ago.

There are some great programs out there, but unfortunately I have not found one that gives meaningful and timely information to non-law enforcement agencies. This is particularly frustrating for those of us who are in that non-law enforcement category (approximately 50 percent of International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators [IACLEA] member agencies are nonsworn).

The frustration is compounded even more when you hear things like FBI Director Robert Mueller stating that campuses are in the category of soft targets, which would make it easier for terrorists to execute an attack. The fact that campuses are vulnerable would also minimize the need for terrorists to communicate with their central leadership, lowering the risk of detection.

I have also discovered there is no definition of “classified information.” This pertains to almost every agency that collects, processes and disseminates intelligence information, and further adds to the confusion.

When I ask the question, “Why can’t we get this information?” I am always told it is because it is classified, and that is the end of it. Other times I am told it is because of the lack of control over who has access to the information once it goes out.

But what control or standards are there to make sure that the classified information sworn law enforcement agencies get is maintained in the strictest confidences? Do police agency secretaries and other nonsworn personnel ever have access to it?  Do E-mails that are circulated among law enforcement officials ever get forwarded to non-law enforcement sources? We all know the answers to these questions.

The bottom line is we have identified colleges, universities and hospitals, as well as many private companies and other entities, as soft targets, high probability targets or sensitive facilities that do not have sworn/law enforcement status. Despite this, we are not doing enough to get them the information they need to prepare properly for terrorist attacks.

So where do we go with this? I would suggest we do the following:

  • Determine which agencies have the most effective sources of intelligence information for us
  • Get them all together with representatives from organizations that represent nonsworn agencies (i.e. IACLEA, ASIS, etc.)
  • Come up with a definition of “Classified Information”
  • Identify those nonsworn entities that really need intelligence information
  • Work out a method of screening them so we are more comfortable in sharing information with them
  • Create a set of clear and enforceable rules for sharing intelligence information with these agencies

Let’s not bury our heads in the sand any longer. This is not an issue that will go away or work itself out on its own. Now is the time for us to act collectively and work out these issues so effective intelligence information can get to the people who need it.

Jim Bondi is the chief of security at the Illinois Mathematics and Science academy and presently vice president of the Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Association. He can be contacted at bondi@imsa.edu.

For the unabridged version of this article, please refer to the January/February 2007 issue of Campus Safety Magazine. To subscribe, go to https://www.secure-mag.com/CSM_Subscribe/.

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