Terrorist Information Sharing Among Law Enforcement

Although information sharing has the potential to help government agencies to increase productivity and performance, improve policy-making and provide better public services to the citizens, there is still little information available about the factors that antecede information sharing between local and state agencies. Information sharing among government agencies has the potential to increase the productivity and performance of government operations, improve policy-making and provide better services to citizens.

In this respect, information sharing between state and local governments is an important part of intergovernmental information sharing and, hence should be promoted. For example, September 11, 2001 terrorist-related events have shown the importance of information sharing among federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in order to protect the safety of citizens by combating crime and terrorism. As Whiting and Chabrow (2001, p. 2) point out, “The intelligence gaps among law enforcement agencies became obvious in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

Two of the suspected hijackers, for example, reportedly were on an INS watch list. But that information never found its way to the Federal Aviation Administration…” As the investigation into these attacks continues, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Customs Service, the INS, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, as well as other law enforcement and intelligence agencies are trying to share information on an extraordinary scale.

Information sharing between state and local governments of course expands beyond the criminal justice system and covers every domain of public life ranging from economic development to education, and municipal services to health care. In spite of the enormous amount of information collected by state and local agencies, bringing together an array of agencies engaged in diverse activities with differing and sometimes competing cultures is not an easy job (Whiting and Chabrow 2001).

Even though interagency information sharing is a common goal, currently, the extent of information sharing in government agencies is limited and does not go beyond the transfer of mandated documents (Dawes and Bloniarz 2001). Although government administrators recognize the importance of information sharing among government agencies and the significant benefits it can provide to policy-makers, agencies, and to the public in general, government agencies face several technological, organizational, political and economic barriers to information sharing (Dawes 1996, Landsbergen and Wolken 1998, Rocheleau 1997).

One of the issues addressed in the some previous researches initiative involved support of information sharing, data integration and interoperability among government agencies. However, a review of literature indicates that academic research on information sharing among government agencies has been very limited in general. In particular, no attention to local agency participation in information sharing with state agencies has been paid.

Dawes argues that, even though various scholars and government agencies have begun talking about the issues related to state-local information sharing initiatives, relatively little progress has been made to advance practice and theory in this area. Examples of information shared between state and local agencies include the exchange of aggregate substance abuse treatment reports between local medical agencies and state health agencies, or the exchange of wanted person profiles between local and state law enforcement offices. Jarvenpaa and Staples (2000, p. 130) state, “information sharing embeds the notion of ‘willingness to share. ’

Local governments are not simply scaled-down models of federal or state government agencies. Local agencies tend to fall behind state and federal government agencies in terms of financial and technological resources and, therefore, they might face greater risks and costs in participation in information sharing initiatives. Moreover, local government employees might have limited IS skills and training compared to state agencies due to human resource issues and limited funding dedicated to training initiatives.