DHS Commits to Better Intel Sharing with Law Enforcement, Points to Mobile App

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Whether the department has increased information sharing with government partners is unclear, but—either way—the quality is just not there, according to DHS’ Office of the Inspector General.

Leaders of the Department of Homeland Security want to assure state and local law enforcement partners of their plans to improve the way DHS shares intelligence, highlighting tools like a new mobile app. 

“In the 20 years since 9/11, our law enforcement and homeland security community has made great progress in reshaping our information sharing environment—working together, we put policies and processes in place that help us to be safer and more secure than we were years ago,” Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas said in a DHS press release on an intelligence summit the department recently hosted for law enforcement partners. “We are committed to building on this foundation, as we are facing a more complex, diverse and dynamic threat landscape than ever before.”

The summit took place over multiple days in Alexandria, Virginia, and was executed in partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and other national law enforcement organizations. DHS said it was “the first of its kind to be held in 15 years and is a critical element of the Department of Homeland Security’s work to empower, inform and engage law enforcement and homeland security partners in anticipating and responding to potential threats.”

The department issued the release days after an inspector general’s report recommended DHS’ Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency Director Jen Easterly update its Automated Indicator Sharing system, particularly for the benefit of its government partners.

“The collaborative spirit at this week’s summit shows the depth of engagement we have built together over the last 20 years,” said DHS Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis Ken Wainstein. “We are wholly committed to prioritizing close connectivity with our federal, state and local partners to enhance our information sharing initiatives.”

According to the DHS press release, participants at the summit “discussed opportunities to enhance information sharing efforts, including: the importance of sharing intelligence in a timely manner, and at the lowest classification level possible, including the value of the recently released DHS Intel Mobile Application.”

The inspector general’s report noted DHS’ use of third-party aggregators for providing a shared service connection between the department and non-federal agencies. The internal watchdog office was unable to validate the department’s claim regarding an increase in the amount of information being shared out of the AIS system. But it was clear about the lack of usefulness of the information that is being shared.

“According to federal and private sector entities we interviewed, most of the cyber threat indicators did not contain enough contextual information to help decision makers take actions,” the report reads.