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2004 National HIDTA Program Award

Houston HIDTA - Houston HIDTA Investigative Support Center

The Houston Intelligence Support Center (HISC) is the intelligence centerpiece of the Houston HIDTA. Established in 1992 as the Joint Drug Intelligence Group, the HISC serves as the focal point for drug trafficking and criminal intelligence for the Houston HIDTA and area law enforcement. The FBI sponsors the Initiative, and the Houston Police Department provides a Deputy Coordinator. Other participants include ATF, DEA, the Harris County Sheriff's Office, ICE, the Texas Attorney General's Office the Texas Department of Public Safety and the USCG. The HISC also houses the Houston HIDTA Intelligence Coordinator, and works closely with him. In this multi-agency task force environment, analysts and investigators use the most advanced analytic tools and methods to collect, organize, evaluate, and analyze raw information and disseminate finished intelligence products to the Houston HIDTA community and beyond.

The HISC is fully integrated into the Houston FBI's Field Intelligence Group (FIG). HISC analysts are trained on and have access to many of the same systems as FBI analysts, which allows them to provide analytical support across the law enforcement/intelligence spectrum, regardless of investigative program. This concept originated in the Houston HIDTA, and has become the model for other FBI Field Divisions. This model has benefited the Houston HIDTA by providing a far more comprehensive analytical capability than would otherwise exist. One example of this integration is that HISC analysts actively participate in multi-agency efforts such as the Joint Intelligence Center which provided analytical services 24 hours a day during the week of the 2004 Super Bowl and All-Star games in support of security and enforcement efforts.

Houston HIDTA Initiatives and area agencies rely heavily on the HISC. The 45 investigators, analysts, administrators and support personnel that comprise the HISC provide all of the services outlined in HIDTA Program Guidance and the General Counterdrug Intelligence Plan except event deconfliction, which is the mission of a separate Initiative. Case/subject deconfliction is institutionalized in the Houston HIDTA and the deconfliction database contains thousands of names. Potential conflicts are quickly identified and resolved. The HIDTA DTO list is maintained by the HISC, and continuously updated. At least one HISC analyst from the long-term support team (OST) is assigned to each CPOT investigation and most other priority targets, providing the full gamut of analytical support. A short-term analytical support team, the IRT, provides a dedicated local telephone number, a toll-free long distance telephone number, and an e-mail address for agencies seeking analytical support. This team has responded to nearly 3,000 requests for support in the first eight months of 2004. These requests may be completed in a few hours, or a few weeks, depending on the requestor's requirements.

The HISC does not limit itself to reactive support. A team of investigators collects information to identify significant drug trafficking organizations in the Houston HIDTA. Traditional investigative techniques such as informant interviews, surveillance, communications collection, and undercover operations are used in furtherance of these investigations. Once the scope of the targeted criminal conspiracy has been fully identified and assessed (often in conjunction with analytical personnel), the investigation is referred to operational units for enforcement action. Since January 1, 2004, two case referrals have been disseminated to HIDTA member agencies. In addition to fully-developed case referrals, this squad also distributes actionable intelligence information to operational squads or agencies for short-term enforcement action. Thirty eight (38) such disseminations have occurred so far this year. The HISC's novel prisoner debriefing concept has generated the development of cooperating individuals and witnesses in furtherance of case development.

Thus far in CY/04 HISC disseminations have directly contributed to 71 arrests, and the seizure of over 60 methamphetamine labs, 7 kg methamphetamine, 60 kg of cocaine, 3 kg of heroin, 79 firearms, and $1,024,434.00. It has provided support in investigations resulting in many more arrests and seizures across the country.

Nor is the HISC limited to operational intelligence. The Strategic Analysis Team (SAT) produces comprehensive threat assessments in support of the Houston HIDTA and area law enforcement. This team is responsible for the collection, analysis, and publication of strategic products such as the annual HIDTA Threat assessment, and topic-specific assessments as warranted or requested. When trends have been identified in the collection and analysis processes, the SAT has produced specific assessments to address trends such as raves, methamphetamine, and heroin. One such document, the Houston Situation Report, published in 2004, received high praise across the country for the depth of its presentation in a concise format. The SAT also develops and maintains liaison with regional enforcement agencies in order to collect and analyze intelligence. It has a working relationship with the National Drug Intelligence Center and other HIDTA and non-HIDTA intelligence operations. This team produced the 2004 Houston HIDTA Threat Assessment and assisted in the production and dissemination of pamphlets distributed to area retailers about common products used in methamphetamine production. ONDCP and others have consistently praised the Houston HIDTA Threat Assessment, particularly its reporting on drug trafficking organizations.

In monthly intelligence meetings, HISC representatives provide snapshots of ongoing investigations and trends. It maintains a booklet of databases to which it has access, updates it continuously, and provides it to HIDTA Initiatives. These sources of information include local, state and federal law enforcement databases, global intelligence, and commercial databases. In 2004, the HISC and the FIG conducted a 2-day open house to showcase its capabilities. It also conducts agency-specific briefings that have been very well received.

For management purposes, the HISC provides monthly, quarterly, and annual performance results. As all support is captured in electronic format, statistical information on all aspects of HISC operations is provided routinely. All analytical support and disseminations are reported, along with which agencies made the requests, whether the requesting agency is a Houston HIDTA member agency, and whether the requestor is part of a Houston HIDTA Initiative. Both the HISC management and the HIDTA management are provided current information on the extent to which Houston HIDTA Initiatives use the HISC to receive analytical support and services.

As part of the Initiative Review process, all Initiatives are specifically queried about the support that the HISC provides. In the 2003 cycle, one hundred percent of Houston HIDTA Initiatives reported satisfaction with HISC services. There were no complaints, and no suggested improvements. The Initiative has been praised by area law enforcement and FBI Headquarters as well. ONDCP recently suggested that the HIDTA Assistance Center use the HISC as an object lesson in the Intelligence Management curriculum that it is currently developing, highlighting many HISC routine procedures as ‘best practices' for implementation by other HIDTAs.

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Last Updated: February 7, 2005