Law Enforcement Intelligence: National Security and Civil Liberties


It is important to note that any form of national security measure comes at a cost or risk of the impending danger of violating and restricting the civil liberties of the people being protected. The case is also true when it comes to law enforcement intelligence, which is critical for national security but can cause major issues in people’s right to privacy. National security mandates the involvement of law enforcement in intelligence gathering and utilizing activities, but civil liberties and privacy rights can be protected through effective policies, doctrines, frameworks, and trust.

National Security

One should be aware of the fact that the current challenges of national security cannot be solely combatted within the framework of old institutions. The role of law enforcement is to participate in ensuring the national safety of the population is increasing. It is reported that “law enforcement faces an ever-evolving threat landscape that requires executives and personnel to identify, prioritize, and mitigate many cross-jurisdictional threats” (Huber, 2019, para. 1). In other words, many threats to national security are no longer solely external or externally invoked but rather internal and blended into the realm of responsibilities held by law enforcement institutions.

Therefore, the old models assume that law enforcement and the law permits for a crime to be committed, damage to be done, property to be stolen, and life to be lost before any measure is undertaken. The evidence clearly points out that “standard law enforcement practices of reactive policing and rapid response do not alleviate crime. The reality of reactive policing is that an incident or some sort of damage already has occurred” (Huber, 2019, para. 3). It is evident that such a model is no longer applicable on a larger scale due to the increased sophistication of crimes being committed. It is noted that “today’s highly globalized and interconnected world has not only helped economies grow and facilitated the ease of global commerce but also allowed threats to morph from individuals into large international networks” (Huber, 2019, para. 2). The changes also include the sheer scale of criminal activities due to increasing population, urbanization, and political and social unrest.

The role of intelligence in law enforcement is of paramount criticality in order to shift the old model of reactive policing toward more potent and proactive prevention-based policing. The primary goals of law enforcement agencies are to prevent and reduce crime, which is hard to accomplish when the reactionary model is used. Intelligence-led policing, or ILP, is crucial to ensure safety and security in the communities and states, which, ultimately, constitutes national security since the modern threats occur internally, even if conducted by external agents. Thus, intelligence is essential for law enforcement, which needs to fight against modern crimes with modern proactive models, and their role in national security is the highest in history.

Civil Liberties and Privacy

The vital goal of ensuring national security cannot be debated, and all reasonably sound individuals acknowledge that it is a priority. The main reason is the fact that without national security, both democracy and a capitalistic economy cannot function, which are two key pillars of American society. However, it is also important to address the question of to what extent civil liberties can be violated or preserved under the strict need for utilizing intelligence to ensure national security. It is clear that some sort of line needs to be drawn where national security interests cannot outweigh individual civil liberties, especially one’s right to privacy. A study conducted on law enforcement fusion centers, which are responsible for providing two-way intelligence sharing to promote national security through law enforcement agencies, found preventative measures against violation of privacy. It is stated that “the policy implications will reinforce the protection of civil rights in the intelligence process while maximizing the organizational effectiveness of the fusion center” (Carter et al., 2017, p. 24). In other words, policies need to be updated, which are the most effective ways to prevent the violation of individual privacy rights.

Moreover, since civil liberties and privacy rights of communities and individuals living within them are always under the threat of breach by intelligence-led policing measures, additional protective measures need to be put in place. These include “having a privacy policy, training personnel on privacy guidelines, and having a privacy review board such as the one discovered in the FFC” (Carter et al., 2017, p. 24). Although these measures can be effective, they are clearly from the old framework of rights protection measures, which could also not work as properly as one wants, considering the ever-evolving structure of relationships between crime and policing. Therefore, there is a need to develop and implement best the “use of a best-practice intelligence framework would provide a more agile structure to ensure … capabilities are applied consistently with governance around the broader police use of criminal intelligence” (Scudder et al., 2019 p. 258). In other words, a new model of information sharing needs to be developed since it is no longer dedicated to intelligence agencies conducting data collection but also to law enforcement ones.

One can easily see how the question is not about whether or not intelligence should be used in the policing process because it is essential under modern criminal conditions. The problem regards protecting individual civil liberties and privacy rights from the policing process. It is stated that “unnecessary intrusions into individual privacy can be mitigated by applying an appropriate intelligence doctrine” (Scudder et al., 2019, p. 255). The rules and models of prevention, which were applied to the dedicated agencies, such as the CIA or NSA, are no longer relevant for the law enforcement agencies. The plane of operation is different because policing is more in touch with its communities and people. In addition, it has far more capabilities to be intrusive and invasive than other agencies, which also translates to a greater degree of intelligence or data collection. It was found that “societal collectivism and power distance significantly affect the strength of the relationships between privacy concerns and acceptance of surveillance, on the one hand, and adoption of privacy protections, on the other” (Thompson et al., 2020, p. 1129). Thus, building trust and mutual understanding include making the target community more collectivistic and reducing power distance.


In conclusion, a highly effective measure, which can be undertaken by law enforcement, is transparency and openness to harness and develop mutual trust between communities and police. The main reason it is important is that privacy concerns, sometimes, might be blown out of proportion and exaggerated due to distrust from citizens. Although implementing effective preventative measures is critical, their successful integration into policing practice can be rendered useless if the public does not understand them or view them as effective. Misunderstanding and miscommunication can easily occur between communities and law enforcement agencies, which is partly due to a heightened level of misinformation and intentional disinformation. Therefore, law enforcement agencies need to build trust with their communities through transparency and openness, which might even include educational approaches about how their privacies are protected.


Carter, J. G., Carter, D. L., Chermak, S., & McGarrell, E. (2017). Law enforcement fusion centers: Cultivating an information sharing environment while safeguarding privacy. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology, 32(1), 11–27. Web.

Huber, N. (2019). Intelligence-led policing for law enforcement managers. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. Web.

Scudder, N., Robertson, J., Kelty, S. F., Walsh, S. J., & McNevin, D. (2019). A law enforcement intelligence framework for use in predictive DNA phenotyping. Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 51(1), 255-258. Web.

Thompson, N., McGill, T., Bunn, A., & Alexander, R. (2020). Cultural factors and the role of privacy concerns in acceptance of government surveillance. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 71(9), 1129-1142. Web.

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LawBirdie. "Law Enforcement Intelligence: National Security and Civil Liberties." April 13, 2023.