A network of 77 “fusion” intelligence centers, set up around the country under the auspices of the federal Department of Homeland Security, has over the past decade uncovered little information that could be useful in defending the nation against terrorism. It also created numerous reports on the legal, everyday of activities of ordinary Americans, according to a Senate report released Tuesday.
In Federal Support for And Involvement in State and Local Fusion Centers, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations wasted no time in panning the work of the centers, which the panel found to be of little to no value in guarding the nation against the threat of domestic terrorism. Instead, the centers themselves pose a threat to our constitutional liberties, as the report noted early in its executive summary:
The Subcommittee investigation found that DHS-assigned detailees to the fusion centers forwarded “intelligence” of uneven quality — oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.
The centers, established to “fuse’ the efforts of state and law enforcement agencies with those of federal investigators in uncovering security threats, has produced an undetermined number of reports like the following:
• “Ten Book Recommendations for Every Muslim,” a list of reading suggestions offered by a Muslim community group, included books by four authors whose names were listed in a terrorism database.
• “Possible Drug Smuggling Activity” was reported by a pair of state wildlife officials who spotted two men in a fishing boat “operating suspiciously” in water near the U.S.-Mexico border. The report noted that the fishermen “avoided eye contact” and that their boat appeared to be low in the water, “as if it were laden with cargo.”
Fusion centers have created headlines and generated outrage and ridicule in recent years by sending out alerts about Ron Paul bumper stickers, the American Civil Liberties Union, activists for and against legalized abortion, and gun-rights advocates.