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NSOC to fall under PM’s office

By Denyse Renne denyse.renne@trinidadexpress.com  

The National Security Operations Centre (NSOC) will soon be shifted to the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM).

The agency, which is currently under the ambit of the National Security Ministry, will be moved before year’s end, sources say.

Though reasons for the move are unclear, sources say legislation is yet to be drafted which would see NSOC being given a different scope of responsibilities and rebranded the National Operations Centre (NOC).

Responding to queries from the Express as to whether or not NSOC will carry out the same responsibilities as the now defunct Special Anti-Crime Unit of T&T (SAUTT), director Garvin Heera said no.

“SAUTT was a task force which was treating and conducting operations. NSOC will be coordinating operations that are being conducted by all agencies,” Heera said. “So everyone will be on board doing the same thing and understanding what the other partners are doing,” he added.

Asked about the reason for shifting such a sensitive agency to that of the OPM, Heera said he was unaware of any such moves.

“No I don’t have that information. We are under national security and report to the minister and permanent secretary”, he said.

In February 2011, then national security minister Brigadier John Sandy announced the elite unit would be dismantled and merged with other intelligence agencies to form one central entity known as the National Security Intelligence Agency (NSIA).

This unit is yet to be formed since the legislative framework is yet to be brought to Parliament.

Asked about the amount of monies which will be allocated to his unit, Heera said he doesn’t know, but added the monies will be sourced from the Ministry of National Security.

On the issue of staffing and the procedures which will be used to recruit personnel for the unit, Heera said: “staffing will come from all agencies, police, army, customs, fire, coast guard. It will be an inter-agency staffed unit.”

Heera said, despite heading the agency, its operatives will not be taking orders from him.

“The legislation is being drafted for the NOC. There would be a Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) group.

“This group will have senior officers acting as liaisons from all national security agencies… from senior superintendent to commander to majors. I am  just the facilitator. Members of the MAC group give the instructions,” he said.

Adding that the unit has been operating with challenges such as limited resources, Heera said by years end he hopes the transition takes place and all agencies can meet and co-ordinate.

Heera further added that the Strategic Services Agency (SSA) will also play a part though they will operate as a separate entity.

“We will not be trespassing on their terrority , instead we will be assisting them by transferring information to them”, Heera said.

Contacted for a comment, National Security Minister Gary Griffith said “the jury is still out” on whether NSOC will be shifted  to the OPM.

“The NSOC will be changed to the NOC specifically because we have major matters in the country”, he said “So it will be safe to say that NOC will not be under the OPM but under the national security council which deals with matters of national security”.
 
How to approach
According to Heera, NSOC, is a national operations coordinating centre for T&T.

He said presently various heads of agencies are building and developing their agencies in order to ensure that the centre is functional and briefings are held often in a bid to coordinate how to approach operations.
 
NSOC objectives
• Receive, collate and rigorously refine information from State intelligence agencies, regional and international partners and other sources to produce actionable and forensically sound operational intelligence for the law enforcement bodies and the military with respect to transitional and national security threats;

• Provide a facility for a total government response to national security threats and the system which includes state of the arts GiS, GPS and situational awareness software and surveillance suites.

It will have the ability to liaise operationally with various ministries and a situation room for the National Security Council;

• Provide a facility where ongoing national security operations can be co-ordinated and monitored with a research and analytical unit to performance manage national security operations with a view to improving collaboration and effectiveness.

This will include recommendations on new legislation or amendments to ensure operations are successful all the way through the criminal justice system; and

• A planning facility where all law enforcement bodies  can access state if the art technology and operational intelligence to add value to their routine and individual operations other than joint operations to enhance their capability to fight crime.
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