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A 5-minute guide to Intelligence Sharing

Intelligence sharing is the practice of organisations sharing information or intelligence with other organisations where it is appropriate to do so. Intelligence sharing is practised at all levels; National Intelligence Agencies share intelligence through intelligence alliances and networks such as Five Eyes and local Police Forces share intelligence with other Force's and local partners, such as the local Council. Secrecy is a cornerstone of successful Intelligence-led activity, so any intelligence-sharing has to be done with caution. Any intelligence that an organisation holds is usually closely guarded by that organisation. Intelligence is collected, collated and analysed to identify trends and patterns. Trends and patterns can change if the subject of Intelligence becomes aware that the information held is known to someone, therefore, it's within an organisation's interests to ensure that the subject does not find out that any intelligence on them is held. However, despite this risk, Intelligence sharing is a characteristic of all great Intelligence Units. Intelligence must always be controlled, however, there are numerous benefits of sharing intelligence with partner agencies without organisations network. Intelligence sharing was invaluable during the Second World War and GCHQ and the NSA maintain the established relationship by working closely to this day.

What are the benefits of intelligence sharing?

  • Improves the overall intelligence picture - Intelligence Units may all hold different intelligence about the same subjects or crime type. By pooling knowledge each organisation will gain a greater understanding of the issue that faces them.

  • Makes for a safer environment - Intelligence Units are stronger together. The goal of an Intelligence Unit is to make the environment safer through the prevention of activity. Working collaboratively and understanding what other agencies know, action can be taken concurrently by numerous organisations, which can have a far more effective impact.

  • Improved response - With an improved understanding of the intelligence picture a response can be much more effective, as well as much quicker.

  • Fosters communication and collaboration with other organisations - Intelligence sharing promotes the growth of mutually beneficial relationships. These relationships allow for the opportunity for joint operations and the sharing of resources, which can reduce costs.

How do I know who to share intelligence with?

As an employee within an Intelligence Unit, you should only share intelligence with other organisations that your employer has agreed to share intelligence with. Intelligence sharing relies upon trust between two organisations, where each organisation trusts that the other will securely hold and handle their data lawfully and according to an established protocol. To establish the intelligence sharing process, organisations generally set up Intelligence Sharing Agreements between themselves through what is referred to as a Memorandum of Understanding, also commonly referred to as an MOU. A great template for an MOU is available from the UK government. Intelligence sharing may also be covered by a Data Sharing Agreement, also known as a DSA. A template for a DSA can be seen on the NBCC site. Setting up an MOU or a DSA is the best way to ensure that the terms of intelligence sharing are clear and understood. I would advise that any organisation looking to develop intelligence sharing with another organisation invests in formalising one of these first.

What data am I allowed to share?

Compliance with legislation is crucial, particularly when it comes to sharing personal data. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act (DPA) regulate the sharing of personal data within the UK, however, there are exemptions when processing personal data is done for law enforcement purposes. The processing of personal data by competent authorities for law enforcement purposes and for the purposes of safeguarding national security or defence is outside of the scope of the GDPR. Similarly, the DPA provides exemptions for informing individuals that personal data is held on them and the right to access any data for law enforcement and national security purposes. Under these exemptions, personal data can be shared with other organisations without informing the subject, as long as the intelligence pertains to criminal activity and the organisation is a competent authority. If your organisation is not a competent authority then you should take legal advice before establishing any intelligence-sharing agreements to ensure that you can legally hold and share the data.

Remember your Duty of Care

When Intelligence is shared, it's vital to protect the source. The ownership of the risk to the source remains with the originating organisation. Whilst any handling conditions set by the originating organisation must be adhered to by the receiving organisation, both organisations may be held accountable for any consequences that lead to any risk to the source. Therefore, it's vital to ensure the source of intelligence is protected. This can be achieved by sanitising the intelligence, which I have previously detailed in another post.

How do I share intelligence?

I've previously spoken about the benefits of intelligence grading and sanitisation using the 3x5x2 system. The 3x5x2 system should be used when sharing intelligence for the reasons highlighted in this article. Intelligence that has been appropriately graded and sanitised under a universal system ensures that the source of the information is protected and that the intelligence can still be understood and acted on appropriately. Intelligence is generally shared between agencies and organisations through a 3x5x2 intelligence report. A template for a 3x5x2 intelligence report features as part of one of the upcoming lectures on my Introduction to Intelligence course, however, I'll also be making this template available for free, which you can download at the end of this blog post. This template is a Word document, which is the standard format for Intelligence Reports.

When you're sharing intelligence with another organisation you should use encrypted email. Intelligence is sensitive and is likely to contain personal details, so you need to ensure that the contents of any submission you make are protected as much as possible. If you're in law enforcement then you may have access to a CJSM email address, which is ideal for this purpose. If not, then a great publicly available option is Proton Mail. The contents of any Proton Mail email are encrypted, however, the subject header is not, so ensure that this contains no sensitive information. If you're sharing intelligence with the police then you will generally need to share it with the Force's FIB (Force Intelligence Bureau) team. If you're sharing it with another organisation then it's best to determine beforehand where they would like to receive any intelligence submissions.

3x5x2 Intelligence Report Template
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