Formed in the wake of 9/11 as a way to search out domestic terrorist threats, fusion centers today are being bombarded with criticism on all sides for things like improper surveillance of the supporters of third-party presidential candidates and an ambiguous mission directive that has lead to power overreaching.Fusion centers are intelligence databases spread out across the country that collect data on ordinary citizens and synchronize national intelligence collection with local police. There are currently more than 40 fusion centers in the country.
At a hearing Wednesday of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment, rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Council on Islamic-American Relations, spoke against the fusion centers.
“Fusion centers have experienced a mission creep in the last several years, becoming more of a threat than a security device," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office in a statement. "With no overarching guidelines to restrict or direct them, these centers put Americans’ privacy at huge risk. We need our government to take a long, hard look at what’s going into these centers and, frankly, what’s coming out.”
The Department of Homeland Security also agrees that fusion centers pose a number of privacy risks to American citizens. In a December 2008 report, DHS's Privacy Office detailed seven risks posed by the centers.
1. Justification for fusion centers
2. Ambiguous Lines of Authority, Rules, and Oversight
3. Participation of the Military and the Private Sector
4. Data Mining
5. Excessive Secrecy
6. Inaccurate or Incomplete Information
7. Mission Creep