US DEFENDERS / C.O.I.R - CALIFORNIA

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Fusion Centers

 

What are Fusion Centers?

  • Part of domestic surveillance system that incorporates private contractors, federal government, military, and local law enforcement
  • Originally organized by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice
  • Provide federal authorities with access to local databases and legally protected information concerning law-abiding citizens
  • Often function with military liaisons and integrate with National Guard
  • Often at undisclosed locations listing only post office boxes as physical addresses
  • As of July 2009, approximately 72 fusion centers exist nationwide

Overview

“Fusion center” is a generic term for entities which are designed to integrate federal intelligence efforts with the state and local authorities.  As of July 2009, there are 72 fusion centers around the country and one in nearly every state.1 These entities work under the auspices of local law enforcement, often integrating with the state’s police force, Department of Justice, or Office of Emergency Management.  The fusion center integrates law enforcement intelligence activities throughout the jurisdiction, providing federal authorities access to local information and databases, while simultaneously allowing federal agencies to disseminate intelligence materials to local authorities.   There are often federal representatives present in local fusion centers, either from civilian or military sources.  The Department of Homeland Security lists 36 active field representatives as of July 2009 and a number of fusion centers are integrated with their state’s National Guard through “liaison officers”.2

This combination of collection and dissemination creates a unique situation where larger federal agencies are able to simultaneously influence local law enforcement activities while gaining access to substantial amounts of private information on American citizens.  An article from Time magazine in early 2009 notes that:

“New Mexico’s All Source Intelligence Center, housed in an old National Guard building, has access to 240 state, regional and federal agencies and their databases, including agricultural and parks agencies, according to Peter Simonson, executive director of the state’s ACLU chapter. Establishing what kinds of information is being processed by fusion centers can be difficult, Simonson says, since they do not store the records, or even collect them, but simply mine them through digital gateways. Records are accessed, not retained as they would be in specific case or investigative files. Simonson says the New Mexico chapter of the ACLU has filed several open records requests seeking to find out what kind of information is being reviewed, but has been stymied by the lack of a “material product.”3

The article also lists current Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano as being instrumental in the formation of one of the first state fusion centers.  The American Civil Liberties Union has published several reports which are highly critical of fusion centers, equating their operations with the formation of a domestic spy force.  One of their reports states that:

If the federal government announced it was creating a new domestic intelligence agency made up of over 800,000 operatives dispersed throughout every American city and town, filing reports on even the most common everyday behaviors, Americans would revolt. Yet this is exactly what the Bush administration is trying to do with its little-noticed National Strategy for Information Sharing, which establishes state, local and regional “fusion centers” as a primary mechanism for the collection and dissemination of domestic intelligence.4

The report goes on to note that a 2008 Los Angeles Police Department order required officers to collect information on the seemingly mundane, everyday behaviors of American citizen. “LAPD Special Order #11, dated March 5, 2008, states that it is the policy of the LAPD to ‘gather, record, and analyze information of a criminal or non-criminal nature, that could indicate activity or intentions related to either foreign or domestic terrorism,’ and includes a list of 65 behaviors LAPD officers ‘shall’ report.”  Some of the suspicious behaviors include taking notes, drawing diagrams and using binoculars.

Other fusion centers are listed in the report as having massive amounts of data on ordinary law-abiding citizens.  The report states that:

“In addition to access to FBI and even CIA records, fusion centers often have subscriptions with private data brokers such as Accurint, ChoicePoint, Lexis-Nexus, and LocatePlus, a database containing cellphone numbers and unpublished telephone records. According to the article, fusion centers have access to millions of “suspicious activity reports” sent to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, as well as hundreds of thousands of identity theft reports kept by the Federal Trade Commission.”

“Pennsylvania buys credit reports and uses face-recognition software to examine driver’s license photos, while analysts in Rhode Island have access to car-rental databases. In Maryland, authorities rely on a little-known data broker called Entersect, which claims it maintains 12 billion records about 98 percent of Americans …  Massachusetts … taps a private system called ClaimSearch that includes a “nationwide database that provides information on insurance claims, including vehicles, casualty claims and property claims.”5

There have also been a number of incidents involving fusion centers infiltrating protest groups.  One example of this is the Washington Joint Analytical Center’s infiltration of the Olympia Port Militarization Resistance, an antiwar group.  John J. Towery, a Fort Lewis civilian contractor who worked for the Army’s Fort Lewis Force Protection Unit, posed as an anarchist and was fed information on the group by the WJAC.6  A document released March 5, 2009 by Wikileaks.org demonstrates that Army Fusion Cells, which are organized by Force Protection Units, are part of a domestic police intelligence operation which is designed to work with local law enforcement to, among other things, “identify and prevent disruptive actions by private protestors”. 7

The National Intelligence Strategy of 2009 argues for increasing this policy information sharing and eliminating the barriers between classified military intelligence and civilian law enforcement.  In September 2009, Federal Computer Week reported that the Department of Defense will begin sharing some classified information with local law enforcement.

 

Fusion Centers in California

Over 40 new Fusion Centers have been established across the country.  California is home to several of these. located in Los Angeles, Norwalk, Sacramento, San Diego, and San Francisco.

Anti-Terrorism Information Center
(Component of the California Department of Justice)
Attorney General's Office California Department of Justice
Attn: Public Inquiry Unit
P.O. Box 944255 Sacramento, CA 94244-2550
(916) 322-3360 or (Toll-free in CA) (800) 952-5225
-Staffed with analysts from FBI, local and state law enforcement.

Northern CA Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center (RTTAC)
P.O. Box 36102
San Francisco, CA 94102
(866) 367-8847
-TITAN website allows access by private sector, etc. to receive intelligence bulletins; security and safety information

Sacramento Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center
(888) 884-8383; (916)808-8383

Joint Regional Intelligence Center (JRIC) (Los Angeles)
12440 East Imperial Highway
Norwalk, CA 90650

San Diego Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center
(858) 495-5730

San Francisco Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center
(866) 367-8847

Los Angeles Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center
(562) 345-1100

 

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