A View from the CT Foxhole: Ravi Satkalmi, Director of Intelligence, United States Capitol Police.
CTC: You serve as the director of intelligence at the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP). You assumed this role in April 2022, so you recently hit the one-year mark. Can you unpack the work of your team, your mission? What are the functions of the intel shop at USCP?
Satkalmi: The best way to think about this is to understand the scope of the mission of Capitol Police, which people intuitively understand to be protecting members of Congress here in D.C. and the Capitol and these wonderful buildings around us. But it's actually much broader than that. It entails protecting the members, the staff, and visitors who come up on the Hill, but also members and their family across the country. So it's a fairly large footprint that we have to cover from a protective standpoint and from an intel standpoint, which presents a lot of challenges.
We are focused here in D.C. We have two field offices--one in Tampa, one in San Francisco, both of which are relatively new--but we do not necessarily have the national footprint that is commensurate with the scale and the breadth of the threat that we face. And so our job as an intel shop is to solve for that problem. We have to figure out how to do that most effectively.
We're protecting 535 members of Congress and their families, as I mentioned, so that is a lot of people that we're responsible for. We do that in any number of ways, including doing what anybody in the business will understand as OSINT social media analysis and threat intel work based on what's available online and through open sources. And this is largely an open-source threat environment. So we're doing a lot of that work to proactively identify threats and threat trends, which will be familiar to a lot of your readership as best practices. The Department also does a lot of coordination work with local law enforcement. That's how we solve for X. If we're not there, somebody's there. We reach out, build those relationships, and ask them to step in to provide protective services where we can't. A lot of that coordination is coming through my shop as well.
We are looking to continue to grow our own subject matter expertise on the full spectrum of anti-government threats and anti-government violence across the board. And I have said this probably ad nauseam to my team, but our goal is essentially to be the premier intel shop for anti-government violence, full stop. We are sitting on a vast trove of threat information that's being sent to us by our members' offices and that we are finding on our own. And the key distinction here is we get it from all sides all the time. We're protecting Democrats; we're protecting Republicans, people of all political persuasions. And they all have enemies, and they're all making threats. It provides a pretty robust dataset for us to think through trends and what may be coming down the pike, and I would argue our biggest responsibility is to cull through that data and identify those trends.
CTC: It's hard to talk about the U.S. Capitol Police intelligence and not talk about January 6 as a watershed moment for the country, for the U.S. government across the board, for U.S. Capitol Police generally, and the intelligence division specifically. You were brought on after the event, in April 2022, and there has been a lot written about January 6 and some of the challenges, some of the failures across different government components and the U.S. Capitol Police recognizes that there's a need for change and evolution. That's part of the reason why you were brought on, I'm sure. When you think about the key lessons that the U.S. Capitol Police has learned from January 6 and what led to it, how has the posture of your work on the intelligence team been evolving to prevent a future event like that or for other related threats?
Satkalmi: I spend a lot of time thinking about that. I have to approach it with a degree of humility because obviously I was not here, and many of my colleagues were, and they've got a lot of perspective to bring to that question. One of the first challenges I had [was] to understand how we as a shop were operating beforehand, what the trajectory of the shop was going into January 6, and then where we need to go from that point forward as we think strategically about building out the team.
There's a couple of things that stood out to me, not necessarily because of January 6th, but I think would go a long way to help plug some gaps. The first thing is making sure that the intel apparatus is at the ground level, integrated into the operational world of Capitol Police in a way that makes it unthinkable two years from today that we didn't have an analyst doing X or an analyst working on Y. It is important to me that the analytical and intel pieces become part of the cultural DNA of Capitol Police. That is a message that people understand and have bought into even before I got here, up the chain, and I think everybody is supportive of that. The question now is how we make that happen and finding those opportunities to integrate at the lowest level possible. It should be almost impossible to do your work here and not have an intel component inform what you're doing. So that is a huge step that we want to take and the direction that we're moving.
Secondly is making sure we are continuing to develop key relationships around the community in D.C., but also as I mentioned, given our national scope, that we are developing those relationships around the country. [That] is just as important. We've done a really good job of having those relationships in place here, with some of our key partners being MPD [Metropolitan Police Department], the Secret Service, U.S. Parks Police, the Supreme Court, and the FBI. That we have on lock. It's looking to replicate that across the country so that we're seeing not only what's in the District, but what's developing in places where our protectees have their district offices, state offices, and constituencies. We need to understand that. That's another lane of effort for us.
CTC: The USCP Strategic Plan for 2021 - 2025 (1) acknowledges that 21st century technologies have changed how terrorists operate and talks about aspects that are obviously very relevant to you and your team. Things like prioritizing data analysis, technology and tools, partnerships, as you mentioned. As you think about technology, tools, and data, how has the work of the intel team been evolving? Are there specific examples that speak to those changes, and challenges?
Satkalmi: This would be the third point to my previous answer: technology and identifying the gaps that we have in our view of the threat landscape and finding ways to fill them. Of course, technology is a huge piece of that, and so we acquire additional tools to help broaden our aperture in terms of what's out there from a threat perspective and to better inform us of where we need to be looking for the next threat vector. But the other piece, and it goes back to what I was saying earlier, is doing more with the data that we already have internally. For us, and this is true for any organization that is in the threat mitigation space, is to think about what you have that is unique, that adds value to the community. As I mentioned before, for us, that is this trove of threats data that is reported to us. Like I said, it's a large volume, but it's also exceedingly diverse. One of my goals is to be able to start culling through that in a systematic, disciplined way to start extracting value in a way that helps inform not just us but the broader community about what the threat is looking like: What is it that we're seeing in...
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