Criminal Investigation and Intelligence

Never was the need for the intelligence community and law enforcement to form a symbiotic relationship greater than in the aftermath of the terrorists attacks of September 11, 2001. The many investigative and intelligence deficiencies identified through the numerous investigations and inquiries into the 9/11 attacks led to several conclusions as to what may have contributed to the lack of preemptive intelligence at the state and federal levels of law enforcement. The 9/11 Commission Report (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2002) suggested that “although the 1995 National Intelligence Estimate had warned of a new type of terrorism, many officials continued to think of terrorists as agents of states, or as domestic criminals, i.e., Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City” (National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, 2002,

p. 126).

On September 12, 2001, the president of the United States, George W. Bush, gave a speech to the nation. In that speech, President Bush exclaimed, “We will bring our enemies to justice or we will bring justice to our enemies” (Schmalleger, 2009, p. 12). At that time, the enemy was categorized as Islamic radicals. Outside of the federal system, state and local law enforcement was at a disadvantage as to how they would be able to identify the differences between peacefully practicing Muslims and Islamic radicals.

The process of conducting an investigation into a group of individuals who have been labeled a terrorist organization is a complex process that poses a great challenge for not only those in law enforcement, but also the intelligence community. The preliminary investigation and the intelligence gathering process, which is necessary in order for the case to reach the indictment stage of the criminal justice process, can be a pain-staking and tedious task. Intelligence analysis, in cooperation with the criminal investigative process, is a critical part of the process, and the intelligence analysts play a crucial role when helping law enforcement identify the criminal participants.

Law enforcement is traditionally more inclined to react to a crime rather than take proactive steps to prevent a crime. For example, in the case of a robbery, the police will respond and then investigate. Only if there are multiple robberies in a certain area, and a pattern is identified, will law enforcement attempt to take proactive steps to prevent future robberies.

It is usually when multiple crimes occur that criminal investigators can begin to develop a pattern, or a modus operandi (MO), that the criminal may follow. Modus operandi, loosely translated, means “a method of operation.” To a criminal, an MO is a set pattern, or way, he or she prefers to commit his or her respective crimes. An MO can range from a burglar choosing to always break into his target locations from a rooftop to a murderer choosing a knife as his choice of weapon with which to commit murder. To a criminal, an MO is a comfort zone in which he or she feels safe in committing his or her criminal act.

Once a pattern is established, the next step in the investigative process is identifying the key components within the organization. This step is crucial if a criminal investigation is to have any success in attempting to dismantle the organization at all. By identifying and demonstrating developing trends in criminal behavior, while focusing on a particular crime group, criminal investigators can effectively prepare an investigative response plan intended to identify and, more importantly, target the threat.

Chalk and Rosenau (2004) advocate for strong analytical assessments, as they can prove to be invaluable tools for making recommendations pertaining to law enforcement strategies: “The analysis is intended to help inform debate on the advisability of creating dedicated information collection and surveillance body” (Chalk and Rosenau, 2004, p. 1).

The detection and investigation of crime, along with the pursuit and apprehension of criminals, require reliable intelligence. Without reliable intelligence, the investigator is limited to overt acts and volunteered information—and thus is severely handicapped in many areas.

The timeline below depicts identified criminal activity directed toward the United States, related to radical Islam, over a 12-month period. By analyzing the data outlined in the research, you can draw multiple conclusions as to the frequency, severity, and relevance to law enforcement of the criminal organization in question—that organization being the radical factions of Islam.

Figure 5.1 is a simplified visual of the level of criminal activity involving radical Islamic extremists. From a criminal investigator’s perspective, the information shows

  • • Ten documented occurrences over a 12-month period
  • • September as the most active month
  • • Methods of attack varying from firearms to explosives
  • • American converts, or American Jihadists, joining the fold to engage in varying degrees of activity

Assessing analytical data and comparing them to related surveillance activity, in addition to any confidential informant information, can aid in the investigation moving from the preliminary stage to the actual proactive investigation stage. It is here, at this stage, that all of the aforementioned information can be disseminated and articulated to support the applications of search and arrest warrants, as well as wiretap affidavits that allow for the covert eavesdropping of telephonic and electronic devices being used by potential targets.

The key to police work, and in particular investigations, is information (Dempsey and Forst, 2010). Therefore, obtaining good

A simplified timeline showing how investigators may track the criminal activity of radical Muslim extremists over a 12-month period

Figure 5.1 A simplified timeline showing how investigators may track the criminal activity of radical Muslim extremists over a 12-month period.

information is critical to a successful investigation. Information can come from complainants, victims, witnesses, the suspect, or all the various files of data kept by a police department. And all of this information can enhance and strengthen an investigation. Today, however, we can use computers to access information rapidly and efficiently. With the availability of millions of pieces of information through stored computer files and various databases, the trick is not related to finding information but to discerning which data are valuable and pertinent to the case that is being investigated. That is where tactical crime analysts and intelligence experts can play an increasingly important role in helping to solve crimes. In Chapter 6, we look more in depth at intelligence collection and the role intelligence analysts can play in solving crimes.

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