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Use the International Tools Available on to Combat Terrorism
International law enforcement and intelligence bodies are only as effective and useful as the people in them and the political will of various countries. Open source information is only as useful as the willingness to look for it and use it.

But the truth is that some of these international groups produce very useful data that the U.S. and European communities could use effectively. If we are to maximize the chances of finding the needles in the haystacks of data that could be useful, some of these walls have to come down.

I am not arguing for a complete globalization of intelligence sharing, but we do need to recognize that, despite the deep unpopularity of the Bush administration in most of the world, we have many allies who are in as serious danger of attacks by radical Islamists as we are. Maximizing the access to information across these lines will give us information we would never obtain alone, and offer useful help to our allies.

For example, Interpol in Europe has a significant data base of 7 million stolen passports that is unused by British and U.S. services. What more useful database could there be as we hear new warnings that al Qaeda has cells here or is sending them to attack us this summer?

As the director of Interpol, Ronald Noble, noted, there "is a clear link between stolen passports and al Qaeda-linked terrorist activity." The United States and Europe are members of Interpol. The Islamists (as well as multiple criminal groups) are constantly looking for good, stolen documents to use to travel without attracting suspicion. It would seem like a simple and easy step to take.

Interpol can do little with the data except collect it, because member nations have to request the information from them. Interpol itself has no independent enforcement power. It is the same with a host of other data bases that contain useful information that is not accessed.

For example, the United Nations Panels of Experts reports from Liberia, DRC, Angola, Sudan and Somalia describe in great detail different arms trafficking networks, organized criminal structures, the creation of al Qaeda training facilities in Sudan and the arming and training of Islamist radicals in Somalia. The work is largely done on the ground, the reports are published and easily available.

Yet hardly anyone in the U.S. intelligence community, and (I would bet my house) no one in the law enforcement community except for a few hardy souls in the Treasury Department) even know these public documents exist, much less uses them.

A huge part of the problem in using publicly available information, whether from the press, the United Nations or elsewhere-and information from other services, even ones we sit in on-is the distain in the community for unclassified information or information that is not self-generated.

I would argue that perhaps one of the single most useful tool for monitoring events abroad, other than human intelligence and interaction, is the CIA-run FBIS program that monitors and translates the local media. All open source.

The UN, World Bank, Interpol and other groups have vast arrays of information on everything from terrorist financing to weapons shipments to illegal immigration and organized crime that are useful, and most cannot be replicated by the community, already overwhelmed with the need to keep up with current data.

But tasking some folks to cull the public record and study ways to maximize the use of international groups and data bases would be a force multiplier that would be well worth the effort.
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