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Proactive Terrorist Investigation and the Use of Intelligence

NCJ Number
Journal of Financial Crime Volume: 10 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2003 Pages: 378-381
Paul Swallow
Date Published
April 2003
4 pages
This paper presents a definition of "intelligence" in the field of terrorism, discusses the mechanisms used to channel and deal with intelligence in the United Kingdom and in Europe, and suggests improvements.
"Intelligence" related to terrorism is defined as "information relating to a crime that for a variety of reasons cannot be used in court." These reasons might be to protect a source or to disguise intelligence methodology. There are two main agencies involved in terrorist intelligence in the United Kingdom, the Security Service and Special Branch. There are Special Branches (SBs) in each of the country's 52 Home Office forces as well as in "non-territorial" forces such as the British Transport Police. SBs develop intelligence and convert it into evidence that can be passed on to police investigators, usually the Anti-Terrorist Branch. The Security Service is strictly an intelligence-gathering body, and it has made a significant contribution to the countering of terrorism. The Security Service has national responsibility for the collecting and analysis of intelligence that relates to terrorism. SBs are responsible for supporting the Service in this role. At an early stage in any SB and Service joint operation, a decision is made as to the operation's objectives. If these are to gather intelligence, the Service retains control. If the objective is to arrest and charge individuals, SBs will be responsible for passing evidence to law enforcement bodies for operational use. Regarding international terrorism, the Service takes the lead and coordinates its work nationally with SBs through a newly established Police International Counter Terrorist Unit. In addition, a new body, the National Terrorist Financial Intelligence Unit, has been established to deal with powers financial institutions have to disclose suspicious transactions they believe may have terrorist links, as well as to investigate terrorist finances. In Europe as a whole, the handling of counter-terrorist intelligence has usually been coordinated by ad hoc practitioner-led initiatives. In 1999 the European Union's Europol was given a role in countering terrorism. The aftermath of September 11th spurred the Justice and Home Affairs Council to order the establishment of a Counter Terrorist Experts Team (now called the Counter Terrorist Task Force) within Europol. This team, however, has met with limited success, so the most effective route for sharing intelligence is still the police-established informal route offered by the Police Working Group on Terrorism of the European Union. For the United Kingdom, this paper proposes the establishment of a National Special Branch to work alongside the Security Service, but with an overriding decisionmaking and policymaking body to guide the work of both agencies. Such a body would be able to work more effectively than SBs with the Security Service, but it would require a controlling committee to guide its activities. Another possibility would be a National Counter-Terrorist Agency that would embrace the counter-terrorist functions of the Security Service and SB. It would have national responsibility, be chaired by a chief constable, and assume responsibility for protecting the public from terrorism. 1 figure and 2 references