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Tips for info-sharing with local and tribal officials

The FBI and DHS need to better clarify what “suspicious activities” local and tribal officials in border communities are to report to federal law enforcement and state fusion agencies, and how to report them.

That was one of the central findings of a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report to the House Committee on Homeland Security that studied information sharing among local and tribal officials in border communities, the Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the FBI and state fusion agencies.

As part of its work, GAO studied 20 agencies in border communities and five fusion centers.

The report recommended DHS and the FBI “more fully identify the information needs of and establish partnerships with local and tribal officials along the borders; identify promising practices in developing border intelligence products within fusion centers and obtain feedback on the products; and define the suspicious activities that local and tribal officials in border communities are to report and how to report them.”

GAO found that “15 of the 20 local and tribal law enforcement agencies in the border communities GAO contacted said they received information directly from at least one federal agency in the vicinity (Border Patrol, ICE, or the FBI) that was useful in enhancing their situational awareness of border crimes and potential terrorist threats.”

In addition, “nine of the 20 agencies reported receiving information from all three federal agencies.”

However, and possibly not surprisingly, local and tribal “officials that reported federal agencies had not discussed information needs and had not established partnerships with them also said they had not received useful information.”

Moreover, officials from 13 of the 20 local and tribal agencies contacted said that “federal agencies had not defined what suspicious activities or indicators rise to the level of potential terrorist threats and should be reported to federal agencies or fusion centers.”


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