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News headlines from across the country tell us that there are people actively plotting and attempting to harm our citizens. The most serious attempts recently have included an attempt on Times Square, a plot to bomb the New York subway system, and a plot to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, OR. This threat environment highlights the necessity for our front line and first responders to not only be prepared, but to also be aware of some of the potential indicators of terrorist activity so that future attempts may also be thwarted.
To help federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies better share this information, the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative (NSI) has taken the processes that law enforcement agencies have used for years, and established a unified, standards based approach for all levels of government to gather, document, process, analyze, and share information about behavior-based suspicious activities that potentially have a nexus to terrorism while rigorously protecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of all Americans.
On December 17, 2009—continuing in the leadership role it has had since 2007—the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) was tasked with establishing and operating an interagency Program Management Office (PMO) for the NSI, which was stood up in March 2010 within the Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance. Thomas J. O’Reilly from the Bureau of Justice Assistance was appointed Director of the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative PMO in February 2010, and is supported in his efforts by a team of directors and advisors appointed from various leadership positions across DHS, DOJ, and the FBI.
Secretary Napolitano has made participation in the NSI a key priority for DHS, expecting all components of the Department to be engaged. To coordinate this effort within the Department, a DHS SAR Initiative Management Group (DSI MG) has been established, which brings together experts from across the Department, including the Office of Privacy, Office of Civil Rights/Civil Liberties, Chief Information Officer, and other relevant DHS offices. These Offices will coordinate on key policies and activities related to the implementation of the DHS SAR Initiative in close collaboration and partnership with the NSI PMO. Together, our efforts will help ready our first responders to be prepared for future attempted attacks, and make them better equipped to protect the American public.