Fusion Centers Seen as Hubs for Major Power Abuse
By Mark Anderson
The relative independence of police agencies in America has been eroding for a long time. The friendly cop on his beat whose job is to “serve and protect” the public too often has been twisted into serving and protecting the almighty state and its well-connected corporate colleagues.
When 9-11 happened, and the Department of Homeland Security was created, even more federal dollars flowed like water to state and local police agencies—and consequently they became much more militarized in their attitude and operations. Fusion centers eventually entered the law enforcement landscape.
“Fusion centers collect and share information with local, state and federal law enforcement, and increasingly, with the military and the private sector. Although information sharing is legitimate and often necessary for law enforcement, the fusion centers are operating with little oversight at a time when new technology, government powers and zeal in the ‘war on terrorism’ are combining to threaten our privacy at an unprecedented level and turn America into a surveillance state,” is how the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sees the matter.
But, interestingly, concern about fusion centers can be found in “left,” “right” and “other” publications, since no one wants to live in a real-life 1984. According to the ACLU and patriot groups, these fusion centers—special data gathering and intelligence posts—need to be closely scrutinized and held accountable.
There are about 50 fusion centers set up and operational in every state across the country except eight:
Idaho, Nevada, Michigan, Nebraska, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Alaska. The states that do not have them basically say “under construction.”
California leads the way with seven fusion outposts. The main Anti-Terrorism Information Center is in Sacramento. The Sacramento center is staffed with FBI, state and local analysts. Other centers are in San Francisco, Norwalk, San Diego and Los Angeles, as well as a second Sacramento site.
Not all fusion centers are exactly alike, and most Americans do not knock genuine law enforcement that is not politically motivated and would leave free speech and other freedoms alone. However, major concerns about fusion centers include the actual or potential involvement of the military in domestic policing—at a time when Americans are experiencing the onslaught of an increasingly brazen, centralized apparatus of law enforcement. (See pages 10 and 11 for more.)
Many of these fusion centers are in state capitals. One of the newer ones was built in Austin, Texas— which is the only one so far, at least officially, in that huge state. The local group, Texans for Accountable Government (TAG), in early 2010 told AFP about their opposition. They also brought their concerns before the Austin City Council, but the center’s construction was finished anyway.
Missouri, whose fusion center is at 1510 E. Elm St. in the capital, Jefferson City, became infamous in early 2009 for the now-withdrawn Missouri Information Analysis Center (MIAC) report that implied that supporters of Congressman Ron Paul, former Constitution Party presidential candidate Chuck Baldwin and like-minded people were potential homegrown “terrorists,” even though they only criticized the nation’s domestic and foreign policies and sought corrective action.
Stern complaints from Paul, Baldwin and others made the authorities back off on MIAC. But MIAC’s mention of Paul and Baldwin was but part of its sketchy claims. While it broadly discussed various militias, abortion opponents and other movements typically labeled “right wing,” MIAC even claimed that those who oppose the NAFTA Superhighway system—
which includes the Trans-Texas Corridor—and point to the system’s role in the documented proposal for a North American Union, are only engaging in another “conspiracy theory,” not fact.
However, these real, publicly promoted super-tollway plans connect Mexico, the U.S. and Canada in a corporatized tollway, railway and utility grid—the very nations that would form the NAU. And it’s not as if opponents of tollways cutting their ranch land in half are dangerous like, say, Mexican drug cartel operatives who endanger life and limb at the border and likely have operatives within the U.S. much of the time.
But no sooner had MIAC been apparently canned when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released another quite similar report, Rightwing Extremism: Current Economic and Political Climate Fueling Resurgence in Radicalization and Recruitment, designed to paint concerned Americans with the same brush that would be used for describing real terrorists.
It was shared with police agencies nationwide. A summary of the ACLU’s special report, What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers, which was first published in 2007 and updated in 2008, notes the following, with regard to crunching data gathered from various sources: “. . . there are serious questions about whether data fusion is an effective means of preventing terrorism in the first place, and whether funding the development of these centers is a wise investment of finite public safety resources. Yet federal, state and local governments are increasing their investment in fusion centers without properly assessing whether they serve a necessary purpose.”
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(Issue # 42, October 18, 2010)