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Fusion Centers

Russell Tice, the (Republican, Bush supporting) NSA whistleblower who some of the right think is a paranoid, embittered loon, said this back in January 2006:

In my case, there’s no way the programs I want to talk to Congress about should be public ever, unless maybe in 200 years they want to declassify them. You should never learn about it; no one at the Times should ever learn about these things.

Whatever he’s talking about there (and it sounds pretty horrifying), it’s not fusion centers. Russell Tice refers to something much worse that remains a mystery. Fusion centers, on the other hand, proudly operate in full view as part of the Department of Homeland Security.

Imagine that somewhere close to your local community there exists a secret computer center. Equipped with powerful mainframe computers and the database integrating powers of XML, this government-funded facility gathers data from thousands of sources including local, state and federal law enforcement, social welfare agencies, hospitals, banks, telephone companies, ISPs, computer search engines, private security companies, schools–essentially an endless list. With its massive computing power, this secret outpost is able to search and sift this data using vaguely defined criteria like “suspicious activity” in order to identify individuals for even closer scrutiny. Finally, this computer center dispenses the results of its analyses to local, state and federal law enforcement and to the military so that they can take action against the citizens tagged as threats.

Such a scenario is no longer the product of a paranoid, over-stimulated imagination. It is a reality called “fusion centers,” forty of which have been established throughout the United States.

Click here to see a map of which states have fusion centers. Here’s the website for the one in Massachusetts. Neat, huh? I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about (cough).

Here are some questions about Fusion Centers:

Under what authority does the Fusion Center operate (state law, local law, or federal law)?

Who is responsible for ensuring all federal, state and local laws protecting privacy and civil liberties are enforced?

What state or local sunshine laws or open meeting laws apply to activities taking place at Fusion Centers?

What information, intelligence and/or data are collected at the Fusion Center and how is it stored?

Who has access to this data at the Fusion Center? How is it protected from misuse?

What does the Fusion Center do to ensure the accuracy of the data it receives and disseminates?

Do any non-law enforcement entities participate in Fusion Center activities? If so, who?

Do any private sector entities participate in the Fusion Center activities? If so, who?

How are private sector entities selected to participate in the Fusion Center? May private sector entities not selected to participate in Fusion Centers receive the same information that is made available to those private entities that are selected? How would they get access to this information?

Do these non-law enforcement entities have access to law enforcement information or databases through their participation in the Fusion Centers? If they are co-located with law enforcement personnel what safeguards are in place to prevent unauthorized access?

Remember those card-carrying InfraGard people with their ’shoot to kill’ orders?

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does—and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to “shoot to kill” in the event of martial law. InfraGard is “a child of the FBI,” says Michael Hershman, the chairman of the advisory board of the InfraGard National Members Alliance and CEO of the Fairfax Group, an international consulting firm.

What do you want to bet some of the InfraGard people have privileges at the Fusion Centers? That’s the whole point of InfraGard - a special class of insiders with extra privileges, access, contacts, favors. If martial law ever does get declared here in the USA, you are going to see this country turned into a police state overnight. In the same way that our military has been largely supplemented with private contractors like Blackwater who operate without oversight, domestic security has also been farmed out to the private sector, also without oversight, even to the extent of giving these people “shoot to kill” permission. Unbelievable. These deputized private citizens will come out of the woodwork to take charge at the first opportunity. They will be armed with your private information and weapons, and you will be forced to do what they say.

This has all been arranged in the name of public safety. Public safety at what price? What price?

“Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power.” - Benjamin Franklin


malcontent said…
Who has access to this data at the Fusion Center? It's many stakeholders. Nameless stakeholders of course.

Seachange International, dba Seachange Technology shares that building along with the MA State Police Computer Crime Lab and IPL Systems (frickin' lasers).

I'm particularly intrigued by Seachange. I looked at their career opportunities page and nearly fell off my chair when I found, "Thank you for your interest in Sea Change Corporation. There are no open positions at this time."

The president and CEO is Richard Earle, is it the same Drug War Profiteer Richard "this is your brain on drugs" Earle as their president? When Mr. Earle isn't selling drugs for Johnson & Johnson he is sitting in the same building with all this data or home with his wife Pat who manages political campaigns according to his bio here

It might be interesting to find out who specifically she works for. The google didn't have an answer on that.
A. Peasant said…
Good digging. Keep me posted.