Thursday, October 28, 2010

Intelligence and Muscle in Texas Border Security

Gov. Perry and Steve McCraw with Texas Border Sheriffs

Intelligence and muscle. Texas border security has both.

Tough talk about crime, drugs, immigrants, and the border comes naturally in Texas -- and often in football analogies.  Operation Linebacker, the 2005 initiative of Texas border sheriffs and sponsored by Governor Rick Perry, set the muscular, take down all line-breakers Texas commitment to border security.

That macho stance on holding the line in Texas has popular appeal, which Perry has exploited with his series of campaign ads each election season featuring him and the most outspoken and ideological of the rural border sheriffs, usually Zapata County Sheriff Sigi Gonzalez and Hudspeth County Arvin West.

The governor’s office since 2006 has channeled tens of millions of dollars to Operation Linebacker, despite a dearth of impact indicators.

But most of the federal and state funds flowing from the governor’s office and the Department of Public Safety, under the directorship of Steve McCraw (who also serves as the governor’s homeland security director), have gone to intelligence-driven projects. In a “guidance” statement for Texas border security, Perry says:

“Using intelligence, available state assets, and a new command and control structure, we are going to take back the border from those who exploit it.”

But after almost five years of intelligence-drive border security initiatives, supported largely by federal grants to the governor’s office, neither Perry nor McCraw have been able to produce the data demonstrating the worth of these border intelligence projects.

Despite the continual stream of pronouncement about border security coming from the governor’s office and DPS, there is little hard information and even less understanding about how Perry and McCraw are putting state assets – and the even more extensive federal assets under their control – to work in, what McCraw calls, “operations-focused intelligence” for border security.

The same is true for the state’s overall commitment to ensuring that intelligence and information-sharing are at the core of public safety and homeland security in Texas.

Steve McCraw and Gov. Rick Perry

Overview of Intelligence-Driven Public Safety
and Homeland Security in Texas

The impetus and the funding to create the Border Security Operations Center (BSOC) and the associated Joint Operations Intelligence Centers (JOICs) came mainly from the federal government’s post Sept. 11, 2001 commitment to homeland security. The same is true for the creation of the state’s fusion centers and data-exchange and crime-mapping projects.

All of the above draw heavily not only on the federal information- and intelligence sharing initiatives precipitated by 9/11, but also on the increasing emphasis on intelligence in policing and in U.S. military operations, particularly as relates to narcotics trafficking and transborder crime.

“Intelligence-led policing” or “intelligence-driven policing” arose in Great Britain in the 1990s and took hold in the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. It wasn’t as if there wasn’t information and intelligence sharing among police agencies. But “intelligence-led policing” has become a driving force in shaping the form of police work and in funding new policing projects. At the federal level, the creation of the National Intelligence Sharing Plan and the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative by the Department of Justice underscored the prominence of this new emphasis in public safety operations.

The military influence in the surge of intelligence operations in Texas is seen, for example, in the creation of the border JOICs, which mirror the DOD’s Joint Intelligence Operations Centers (JIOCs). According to DOD, a JIOC is “an independent, operational intelligence organization…that is integrated with national intelligence centers, and capable of accessing all sources of intelligence impacting military-operations planning, execution, and assessment.”

In Texas, the incubator of intelligence and high-tech information sharing in homeland security, border security, and public safety was situated in the governor’s office until 2009. Steve McCraw, who since August 2004 served simultaneously as the chief of the newly created Office of Homeland Security and governor's overseer of the Governor’s Department of Emergency Management (GDEM), whose director was Jack Colley.

Appointed by Perry, McCraw came to the governor’s office from the FBI, where he had worked since 1983, including as Assistant Director of the Office of Intelligence and Inspection Division in Washington, DC. McCraw, who grew up in El Paso, served as a narcotics investigator with DPS before joining the FBI.

(More on intelligence in Texas in next installment of this series on outsourcing border security in Texas.)

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