While Homeland Security fills a large gap between law enforcement agencies, there is still an ongoing debate concerning the involvement of local and state law enforcement with intelligence activities. According to Kiernan (2009) most leaders in intelligence fields believe that counterintelligence should be prioritized but that it should remain separated from law enforcement. Opponents to this view believe that successful counterintelligence operations require the use and cooperation of state and local police forces. Much of this debate centers on the clearance levels of police and determinations of ‘need to know’ (Kiernan, 2009). Supporters of maintaining confidentiality see this as a problem of secret information being disclosed which could impair other investigations or bar the capture of other terrorists. Opponents to this view argue that the risk of sensitive information being shared and damaging ongoing investigations is outweighed by the greater efficiency and effectiveness of stopping a terrorist.
The problem with local and state police becoming more active in the investigation and hunt for terrorists was highlighted by the events of 9/11. Before 9/11 local and state law enforcement were focused on domestic threats such as gangs and localized cults and white supremacist groups. After 9/11, law enforcement was forced to expand its purview from domestic threats to include national and international terrorists. Traditional intelligence agencies were no longer able to accomplish their missions without the increased involvement of local law enforcement. The Boston Marathon Bombing represents this change as local and federal law enforcement worked together to capture the culprits. Beyond events such as the Boston Bombing, law enforcement officers are increasingly encountering terrorists. Between 2006 and 2007, local and state law enforcement officers encountered and estimated 178 registered terrorists during routine traffic stops (Kiernan, 2009). It is this reality that shows that “policing is more than just public safety, its national security”, and for this reason local and state law enforcement need to play a larger hand in the intelligence gathering and dissemination (Kiernan, 2009).
Kiernan, K. (2009). Counterintelligence and Law Enforcement. In J. Sims & B. Gerber (Eds.), Vaults Mirrors & Masks (pp. 149-172). Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press.