Friday, September 13, 2013

DHS Fusion Centers

State and local police departments provide both space and resources for the majority of fusion centers. The analysts working there can be drawn from DHS, local police, or the private sector. A number of fusion centers operate tip hotlines and also invite relevant information from public employees, such as sanitation workers or firefighters.
A 2007 ACLU report raised concerns with four areas of fusion center aspects, the first of which was that they suffered from "ambiguous lines of authority", meaning that the fusion process "allows the authorities to manipulate differences in federal, state and local laws to maximize information collection while evading accountability and oversight through the practice of 'policy shopping'." The ACLU was also concerned with the private sector and military participation in the surveillance of US citizens through these fusion centers.
Also criticized is the involvement of private Terrorism Liaison Officers, a citizen who has been trained to report suspicious activity that may be encountered during the course of his or her normal occupation as part of the United States' War on Terror. While some of these individuals are members of local law enforcement agencies, others such as paramedics, utility workers, and railroad employees have also been recruited into the program.
Another example was a California fusion center report on the Mongols Motorcycle Club's distribution of leaflets to its members instructing them how to behave when stopped by police. According to the Senate report, the leaflet suggested to the Club members that they should be courteous, control their emotions and, if drinking, have a designated driver. One supervisor eventually killed the fusion center report, noting that “There is nothing illegal or even remotely objectionable [described] in this report,” and that “The advice given to the groups’ members is protected by the First Amendment.”
Part of the problems identified by the Senate report is that the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis imposed a quota of reports to be filed by the fusion centers, leading to diminished quality. The Senate committee estimated that about $1.4 billion had been spent on the fusion centers. It also estimated that:
"Of the 386 unclassified HIRs that DHS eventually published over the 13-month period reviewed by the Subcommittee investigation, a review found close to 300 of them had no discernable connection to terrorists, terrorist plots or threats."

Regional Information Sharing Systems (RISS) is an information-sharing program funded by the U.S. Federal government whose purpose is to connect databases from local and regional law enforcement so that they can use each other's data for criminal investigations. In 2003, the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan (NCISP) declared that RISSNET would be the official "backbone" for all unclassified, but sensitive criminal intelligence data traffic. Later that year, members were also given access to the Automated Trusted Information Exchange (ATIX) database, which contains information on homeland security and terrorist threats.

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