Over the last six years the government has established more than 40 state, local, and regional “fusion centers” to integrate information and intelligence from the federal government, state, local, and tribal governments, and the private sector to identify risks to people, economic infrastructure, and communities, to prevent terrorist attacks, and to respond to natural disasters and manmade threats. The report notes that fusion centers “represent a fundamental change in the philosophy toward homeland defense and law enforcement” and “a shift towards a more proactive approach to law enforcement.”
Fusion centers are created by the states and are largely financed and staffed by the states. Curiously, for centers that produce and control so much potentially sensitive and private information and that work in cooperation with the private sector, there is no one model for how a center should be structured.
Of note, the DHS Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight, and Semantic Enhancement (ADVISE) program, which is being developed to “analyze large amounts of data, such as the relationships among people, organizations, and events” when fully functioning may have the ability to receive and provide information to the nation’s fusion centers to assist with analytic strategic indications and warnings. Should ADVISE or other data collection and analysis programs become fully functional and accessible by fusion centers, some might see this as a devolution of national intelligence capabilities from the federal government to state governments resulting in the encroachment on individual civil liberties. Some are concerned that as fusion centers and the IC agencies codify relationships, there is increased potential for misuse of private sector data. It could be argued that such a relationship will allow state entities to act as agents of the federal government in performing federal intelligence community activities that violate federal privacy laws.
This CRS report includes over 30 options for congressional consideration to clarify and potentially enhance the federal government’s relationship with fusion centers including drafting of a formal national fusion center strategy. The report examines, among many other things, civil liberties concerns and violations, and private sector purposes and roles in fusion centers.
- Fusion Centers: Issues and Options for Congress, updated January 18, 2008. by John Rollins, Congressional Research Service, Order Code RL34070.
Our thanks to Steven Aftergood for identifying and housing this report. See more of today’s goodies here: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and More from CRS, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (March 3, 2008). Also see earlier FGI posts: What is wrong with Fusion Centers and Groups seek definition of terrorism at government and private sector information-sharing centers.
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