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Would You Please Pass the Intelligence?


AcTIC logoIt's the season for sharing--whether warm meals or gifts around a tree.

In the intelligence business, sharing is always in season. Why? Because a morsel of information from the FBI could help state and local law enforcement crack a case--and vice-versa. When it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, no agency is an island.

Exactly why we're partnering with state and local governments nationwide to create joint intelligence centers, where tips and information move freely among investigators and analysts of many agencies. Today, these centers are operating in New York, California, Washington, and Texas, to name a few places. And more are in the works.

The latest collaboration was forged in October, when the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC) opened its doors in Phoenix. The center houses personnel from 22 federal agencies and 14 state law enforcement agencies, including the Arizona Department of Public Safety, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the local Joint Terrorism Task Force, four FBI counterterrorism squads, and our Field Intelligence Group. There, with access to some 50 information systems, representatives not only freely pass intelligence around the table, but also work side-by-side on investigations.

We asked FBI Special Agent and Bomb Technician Scott Thorlin, who coordinates responses to threats involving bombs and weapons of mass destruction, to talk about life at ACTIC.

Q: What's a typical day like for you and your colleagues at ACTIC?

A: We field calls from citizens and law enforcement organizations on potential threats. They're farmed out to the appropriate squad of investigators made up of federal, state and local agents and officers. If it's a bomb threat, it's assigned to me or another bomb tech. If it involves a suspected terrorist, it goes to a counterterrorism squad. We investigate and figure out whether the threat is real.

Q: What's the benefit of having all these agencies under one roof?

A: Location, location, location. Say I'm investigating a subject and need to know his immigration status. I can walk over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent here, and he or she can look it up on his database while I sit there. It's much quicker and more effective than sending an envelope out into the ether.

Q: It sounds good on paper. Does it work in real life?

A: Absolutely. It's not like a high school dance with FBI agents standing on one side of the room and state and local law enforcement officials on the other. We're sitting at the same table analyzing the same information, and that goes a long way toward helping to connect the dots quickly and to keep our communities--and our country--safe.

Links: Office of Law Enforcement Coordination | FBI Phoenix