Monday, June 18, 2012


Posted By Woody Pendleton


Fusion Centers Closed to Freedom of Information Act Requests

Written by Gary North on June 18, 2012

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If you don’t know what a fusion center is, read the Wikipedia article. They are government-run regional centers that collect information on American citizens. Quite simply, they are domestic spying operations.
A fusion center is an information sharing center, many of which were created under a joint project between the Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of Justice‘s Office of Justice Programs between 2003 and 2007.
They are designed to promote information sharing at the federal level between agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice, US Military, and state and local level government. As of July 2009, the Department of Homeland Security recognized at least seventy-two fusion centersTemplate:PBS Frontline Report: Are We Safer?, season 29 mentions that the DHS created 72 fusion centers. Fusion centers may also be affiliated with an Emergency Operations Center that responds in the event of a disaster.
The fusion process is an overarching method of managing the flow of information and intelligence across levels and sectors of government to integrate information for analysis. That is, the process relies on the active involvement of state, local, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies—and sometimes on non–law enforcement agencies (e.g., private sector) to provide the input of raw information for intelligence analysis. As the array of diverse information sources increases, there will be more accurate and robust analysis that can be disseminated as intelligence.
Although the phrase fusion center has been used widely, there are often misconceptions about the function of the center. Perhaps the most common is that the center is a large room full of work stations where the staff are constantly responding to inquiries from officers, investigators, and agents. This vision is more accurately a watch center or an investigative support center — not an intelligence fusion center. Another common misconception is that the fusion center is minimally staffed until there is some type of crisis wherein representatives from different public safety agencies converge to staff workstations to manage the crisis. This is an emergency operations center, not an intelligence fusion center. The fusion center is not an operational center but a support center. It is analysis driven.
On its own authority, the Department of Homeland Security has announced that the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) does not apply to these fusion centers.
The DHS has in effect said that the transparency law does not apply to it. It is exempt.
Specifically, the Department exempts portions of the system of records from one or more provisions of the Privacy Act because of criminal, civil, and administrative enforcement requirements.
DATES: Effective Date: This final rule is effective June 7, 2012.
It originally announced this policy in November 2010. It waited for comments. There were only six. Congress was silent, as it usually is. Therefore, the DHS has now decided to go ahead with its 2010 policy.
After careful consideration of public comments, the Department will implement the rulemaking as proposed, additionally the Department will not update the Systems of Records Notice.
On what basis did the DHS decide to ignore the FOIA? Here is its official statement.
DHS’ decision to take exemptions to the Privacy Act (point 4) are appropriate given the law enforcement nature of the collection and the concern that providing access may give individuals the ability to contravene legitimate law enforcement activities.
So, because it enforces the law, it does not need to obey the law.
But what if your name goes into the file? What if the information is inaccurate? What can you do about this?
Nothing. You will never find out.
But inaccurate information can get in, you argue.
Nonsense, says the DHS. There are lots of internal safeguards. The agency polices itself. The National Operations Center (NOC) is reliable. The DHS assures us of this. There is nothing to worry about unless you are a criminal or a terrorist.
So, there is no need for outside access.
With regards to the comments concerns regarding exemptions from the ‘‘relevant and necessary’’ standard (point 5), sufficient means do exist to verify the accuracy of the data and ensure that incorrect data is not used against an individual. System users are trained to verify information obtained from the NOC before including it in any analytical reports. Verification procedures include direct queries to the source databases from which the information was originally obtained, queries of commercial or other government databases when appropriate, and interviews with individuals or others who are in a position to confirm the data. These procedures mitigate the risk posed by inaccurate data in the system and raise the probability that such data will be identified and corrected before any action is taken against an individual. In addition, the source systems from which the NOC obtains information may, themselves, have mechanisms in place to ensure the accuracy of the data prior to the information being shared, as outlined in the ISE.
You must stop worrying, unless you are a criminal or a terrorist.
Anyone who continues yo worry is presumed to be a criminal or a terrorist.
You will therefore stop worrying. Now. Do you understand?
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