Lessons Learned from Colleyville, TX

Jan 31, 2022 | Technology News

 Written by John Gill and Michael Hartzler

The recent hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas highlights the relevance of some very important parts of any comprehensive security plan: preparation, information sharing, and collaboration.  

Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail

We all know what the great philosopher, Mike Tyson, said about what happens to plans; but I think we can all agree that we’d rather go into a ring with a plan in place than without one – at least you have a base of knowledge to build on after the first punch is thrown. In the days following the Colleyville hostage situation, we learned just how critical it was that the Rabbi and his congregation had received training from local, state, and federal agencies, and most importantly, some very specific, active-shooter training and strategies from the non-profit organization, Security Communications Network (SCN). [1]   Following the hostage event, which ended with no loss of life to the congregation, the Rabbi said repeatedly how important the training was in knowing what to do and how to respond in just this type of scenario. Thanks to the SCN and other entities, they had a base of knowledge to build on – they were prepared with a plan that he clearly feels saved both his life and the lives of the other hostages. We were reminded that failing to plan is planning to fail.

The Importance of a Framework That Supports and Promotes Information Sharing

When acts of targeted violence and terror like this occur, it naturally raises important questions about the availability and awareness of information about the individual or individuals that committed the act. Specifically, were there any missed, “red-flags” that should have alerted authorities to this individual, or prevented him from gaining entry into the US? How was he able to acquire a gun, and did he receive any assistance from anyone else, either here or abroad?   It’s still early days in the investigation as the FBI works with both domestic and global authorities, looking into any other information that goes beyond the connection of the perpetrator, a British national of Pakistani descent, to a jailed terrorist he referred to as his “sister”, who is imprisoned in the US [2]. To date, we’ve learned that there had been incidents of concern in the perpetrator’s past in the UK, enough to where he had been the subject of a UK intelligence investigation and was placed briefly on a watch list, before concluding that he no longer posed a threat. [3] We’ve also learned that in the days leading up to the event at the synagogue in Colleyville, he was turned away at a mosque in Irving, Texas and that his demeanor was noted by individuals both at the mosque and elsewhere as being belligerent and concerning. [4]

As this investigation continues, it is worth the public knowing just how critical the information-sharing network is that ties together information from the 18,000 state, local, federal, and tribal organizations in the US, as well as international law enforcement and intelligence entities. In today’s increasingly data-driven world it is crucial for these agencies to not only collaborate through the sharing of information but to ensure that their own criminal and intelligence investigators and analysts have the proper tools to enhance their investigative capabilities and their ability to collaborate. 

The goal, of course, is to disrupt a criminal or terrorist event before it happens.  In many circumstances, the window of time permitting authorities to respond is limited, so any and all lawful information is good information for investigators or a team of analysts to vet. One thing is for certain, without the proper frameworks and capabilities to support information sharing and collaboration both across and within these multiple entities, we run the risk of missing vital pieces of information that may be developed into actionable intelligence.  

Fusion Centers: Actionable Intelligence Through Collaboration 

One example of a successful information-sharing structure is the National Network of Fusion Centers. Within the United States and its territories, the National Network of Fusion Centers brings in information and intelligence from the public, private sector, and all levels of law enforcement and first responders.  Analysts at each fusion center assess the information to develop actionable intelligence.  Each fusion center communicates with local, state, and federal law enforcement to assure the data reaches the appropriate authority with the goal of disrupting a terrorist or criminal event before it happens.  Intelligence developed at fusion centers has provided case support and prevented events before they happened on countless occasions.

Whether it’s the world of commerce or the world of criminal and intelligence analysis, there has never been a more important time for public and private organizations to leverage the most up-to-date investigative technologies.  These tools, together with proper planning, preparation, and collaboration, enhance an organization’s abilities to mitigate existing and emerging threats.  

 

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