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Friday, June 21, 2024

DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis Could Improve Privacy Oversight, GAO Says

GAO found that the office does not have a performance measure relating to its strategic goal of protecting privacy and civil liberties or of promoting technological innovation. 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis collects and shares homeland security data with its partners in law enforcement, the intelligence community, and the private sector. While doing so, it’s important to protect U.S. citizens and residents’ rights and privacy.

But the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the office hasn’t done some required audits that would ensure that its personnel are following policies to protect these rights. For example, auditing the information systems that contain sensitive data would tell the office whether the personnel who accessed them had the appropriate clearance and permissions.

During the course of its review, GAO found that the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis collected input from its mission centers and partners to prioritize threats and guide intelligence production during fiscal years 2019 to 2022. Specifically, the office integrated Intelligence Community priorities into a single framework; coordinated with DHS intelligence components to prioritize threats identified in that framework; and solicited input from state, local, and other partners to refine priorities and inform product development.

GAO also found that the Office of Intelligence and Analysis is not fully implementing activities intended to monitor whether personnel are following its policies to protect the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of U.S. persons, including U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. For example, the office has not conducted two required monitoring activities: audits of information systems and audits of bulk data. The government watchdog noted that the office has not identified who is responsible for conducting these audits. 

GAO found that the Office of Intelligence and Analysis tracks 13 performance measures, but it lacks information about its effectiveness because the performance measures do not clearly align with its strategic goals. For example, the office does not have a performance measure relating to its strategic goal of protecting privacy and civil liberties or of promoting technological innovation. 

Officials told GAO that the office intends to use data from questionnaires attached to its intelligence products to better understand its customer interests. However, GAO found that the office has not assessed whether these data are fulfilling its intent. By conducting such an assessment, the watchdog said, the office may be better positioned to produce intelligence that aligns with the interests and needs of its customers.

GAO is making nine recommendations, including that the Office of Intelligence and Analysis identify who is responsible for conducting audits of information systems and bulk data and ensure these audits are conducted, develop performance measures that clearly align with strategic goals, and assess the extent to which customer feedback data improve its understanding of customers’ interests. DHS agreed with the recommendations, all of which it expects to implement by the end of September 2024.

Read the full report at GAO

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Homeland Security Today
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.
Homeland Security Today
Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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