Expert: Fusion Centers Should Be Dismantled
Matthew Harwood writes on Security Management:
A constitutional and international lawyer told lawmakers yesterday that the United States should dismantle state-run intelligence fusion centers, which have grown dramatically since 9-11 with the assistance of the federal government. Police and federal officials defended fusion centers and described measures being taken to protect citizens’ privacy and civil liberties.
Bruce Fein, of Bruce Fein & Associates and The Lichfield Group, compared [.pdf] state fusions centers to the Soviet Union’s KGB and East Germany’s Stasi and called for the United States to “abandon fusion centers that engage 800,000 state and local law enforcement officers in the business of gathering and sharing allegedly domestic or international terrorism intelligence."
Fusion centers bring together law enforcement and intelligence personnel from state, local, and federal government to collect, analyze, vet, and disseminate intelligence to first responders on the ground in an effort to disrupt terrorist or criminal activity. The Department of Homeland Security recognizes 70 fusion centers nationwide but because states operate fusion centers, no two are exactly alike.
Fein was also critical of suspicious activity reports (SARs), whereby police officers and concerned citizens report unusual behavior that may indicate a terrorist or criminal conspiracy. These reports typically flow to fusion centers.
“To an intelligence agent, informant, or law enforcement officer,” Fein said, “everything unconventional or unorthodox looks like at least a pre-embryonic terrorist danger.”