13 Oct 2017
Information-sharing among agencies key to national security
State premiers and chief ministers were quick to agree at the recent Council of Australian Governments meeting that federal authorities should have access to photographs on state driver’s licences for counter-terrorism and crime-fighting purposes.
While federal police are already able to check state-held photos, it’s a slow process.
“It shouldn’t take seven days to be able to verify someone’s identity or seek to match a photograph of somebody that is a person of interest; it should be able to be done seamlessly in real time,” Malcolm Turnbull told the territory and state leaders.
Speeding up the system of access for police around the country is sensible. But what’s also needed is real-time access to data from law-enforcement agencies and the intelligence community.
For example, if someone with no criminal record wants to buy a gun in Queensland today, a police check wouldn’t necessarily show the potential buyer had been red-flagged by security agencies.
Again, if police stop a vehicle registered in one state, with a driver from another state and passengers from all over the country, how do they assess danger — to themselves and the community? When a police officer stops a person, or executes a search warrant, they should do so with the best possible knowledge of who they are dealing with.
Most Australians would be surprised to learn that police don’t have this capability and would be disturbed by the heightened risks faced by our law enforcement officers.
Different data sets across police and intelligence in Australia need to be melded together in one portal, to red-flag an individual and allow the police to contact the relevant agency.
A program is being developed that will link criminal and security intelligence around the country. It will provide the cross-jurisdictional information sharing that we so badly need.
A pilot to establish a national criminal intelligence system was successfully completed in June within the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission. It complements efforts by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to prioritise people and items for scrutiny by investing in cutting-edge machine learning and big-data analytics.
There should now be a full rollout of the national system. This would allow those fighting at the frontline to have the best national intelligence available.
Access to the national repository of criminal information, police records and intelligence-led threat assessments would help keep us safe and, at an estimated cost of $150 million, it’s not that much more than the postal survey on same-sex marriage.
An expanded version of this article is available here: https://www.policyforum.net/getting-intelligence-big-picture/