Correct me if I am wrong, but this must spell an unprecedented level of domestic intelligence sharing. One wonders, is the sharing between the DoD and fusion centers — which incorporate local, state and federal law enforcement and homeland security agencies — both ways? Again, a big disappointment coming from a new President who promised all sorts of sunshine into the creepy darkness of Bush-era law enforcement/domestic security policies, but seems to be instead pushing forward into the gloaming of his own administration full throttle. Considering his justice department has announced it is pretty much all settled to extend the three controversial Patriot Act provisions set to expire at the end of the year, and now this story out of DHS, it is really hard to make out the sliver of sunlight between Obama and his predecessor.
From the ACLU tonight:
Fusion Centers To Obtain Access To Classified Military Intelligence
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 15, 2009
CONTACT: Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON â€“ The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced Monday that it was giving state and local fusion centers access to the classified military intelligence in Department of Defense (DOD) databases. The federal government has facilitated the growth of a network of fusion centers since 9/11 to expand information collection and sharing practices among law enforcement agencies, the private sector and the intelligence community.
Allowing fusion centers access to DOD classified information appears to be a shift in policy. The New York Times reported in July that â€œJanet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said â€¦ that fusion centers were not intended to have a military presence, and that she was not aware of ones that did.â€
The American Civil Liberties Union has long warned the government about the dangers posed by fusion centers without proper oversight and, in 2007, released a report entitled, â€œWhatâ€™s Wrong With Fusion Centers?â€ The report, which was updated last year, identifies specific concerns with fusion centers, including their ambiguous lines of authority, the troubling role of private corporations, the participation of the military, the use of data mining and their excessive secrecy.
According to DHS, there were 70 fusion centers in the United States as of February 2009. It is unknown how many include military personnel.
The following can be attributed to Michael Macleod-Ball, Acting Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:
â€œAs fusion centers gain more and more access to Americansâ€™ private information, the information about them being made available to the American public remains woefully inadequate. There is a stunning lack of oversight at these fusion centers and, as weâ€™ve seen, these centers are rapidly becoming a breeding ground for overzealous intelligence activities. Opening the door for domestic law enforcement to gain access to classified military intelligence coupled with no guidelines restricting the militaryâ€™s role in fusion centers is a recipe for disaster.
â€œCongress must take the necessary steps to ensure that a thorough and rigorous oversight mechanism is in place to ensure that Americansâ€™ most sensitive information is protected. Without proper guidelines, fusion centers will continue to threaten our privacy while doing nothing to improve security.â€
To read the ACLUâ€™s report, â€œWhatâ€™s Wrong With Fusion Centers,â€ go to: www.aclu.org/fusion