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07 June 2007

Protective intelligence in the spotlight

Via several open media sources in the UK comes word of a the formation of a new protective intelligence unit, the Fixated Threat Assessment Centre, designed for the protection of high profile principals from potential stalkers and lone assassins. The unit, apparently operating within the Met, is comprised of a mix of psychology and psychiatry experts supporting sworn police and civilian research / intelligence specialists.

At first blush, this seems like a long overdue UK adoption of a similar model currently in use within the US Secret Service, the National Threat Assessment Center. The US unit is noted, in addition to its substantive operational activities and line intelligence production, for excellent contributions to the literature of intelligence on this specialized (but vital) function, drawn from a case study method program of their own creation. They even produced an excellent introductory text a few years back, well worth the time for any professional assigned to even occasional PSD missions.

However, it should be noted that Special Branch has long held the protective services mission, and has enjoyed considerable intelligence support over the years from the UK’s police intelligence and security services. The UK’s “new” unit is likely just a new task force model with greater participation by health services experts. Nonetheless, it is another example of joint interagency fusion bringing new players and traditional mission owners to the same table to tackle difficult and enduring problem sets – something we have, and continued to, strongly support.

As the disciplines within homeland security intelligence continue to emerge and become more defined, we firmly believe that principal-focused threats will make up a significant percentage of requirements, especially in departments and agencies which may not previously have been tasked to support these needs. With the explosion of publicly available information regarding individuals accessible through low cost (or free) online services, and the growth of the politics of personal destruction, the threats to prominent individuals (even at levels far below those traditionally considered “national” exposure) will only increase.

To this later point, we are reminded that robust online collection through large scale internet exploitation may be one of the better ways at identifying early indicators of such threats – but like all such efforts, requires serious analytical strategies to avoid information overload and irrelevance. Given the recent news that others are now paying serious attention to the Jesters at the Futurists’ Court Table (in the form of homeland security taskings for Sigma), we recall an different science fiction author, Neal Stephenson’s notional approach to solving this likely analytical bottleneck through the use of expert system software designed to identify paranoid schizophrenics – and the unexpected spin-off’s that result when such software is available on the market. While the reality may never be so dramatic, the story does serve to challenge with new concepts of future intelligence challenges.

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