FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON – The American Civil Liberties Union today called on Congress to hold hearings to investigate rampant civil liberties violations in the fusion centers funded by the Department of Homeland Security. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations released a report today on the centers, which were originally created to improve the sharing of counterterrorism information among different state, local and federal law enforcement agencies.
“We hope that continuing oversight and stronger regulation will prohibit law enforcement intelligence collection without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity,” said Michael German, senior policy counsel in the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “The ACLU warned back in 2007 that fusion centers posed grave threats to Americans' privacy and civil liberties, and that they needed clear guidelines and independent oversight. This report is a good first step, and we call upon Congress to hold public hearings to investigate fusion centers and their ongoing abuses.”
Starting in 2007, the ACLU issued reports warning that the lack of public oversight regarding the centers and their work put Americans’ privacy at risk.
“Law enforcement has long abused its perceived intelligence authorities to spy on people because of their beliefs and political activities rather than evidence of wrongdoing, and the subcommittee report confirms that this problem continues today,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s national security project. “History has shown that police powers exercised in secret are often abused, and the ACLU previously identified excessive secrecy surrounding the development of fusion centers as one of the primary threats to civil liberties. These centers need to be accountable to federal, state and local governments, and, most importantly, to the public they serve.”
The ACLU is currently litigating a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking documents about a federal program to share information with the fusion centers called eGuardian, which is the FBI’s nationwide system of collecting and sharing so-called “Suspicious Activity Reports” from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
More information on fusion centers at:
The complaint in the ACLU’s eGuardian FOIA lawsuit is at: