Fusion Centers Part of Incipient Domestic Intelligence System, ACLU Warns

July 29, 2008 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON — The nation’s growing network of “fusion centers” is part of an incipient de facto domestic intelligence system, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Today the ACLU released a report detailing spying on Maryland peace demonstrators, a mysterious domestic-spying scandal at a California military base and other recent incidents, confirming that its warnings about fusion centers were coming true.

“If some in this country want to build a domestic intelligence apparatus, then let’s have a debate in Congress about that, and an up-or-down vote on the idea,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “Let’s not slide sideways into a fundamental change in the direction of our nation’s law enforcement system with little public awareness or debate.”

In November 2007, the ACLU released a report, “What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers,” in which the group warned about the potential dangers of these new institutions, including ambiguous lines of authority, excessive secrecy, troubling private-sector and military roles, and an apparent bent toward collection of information about innocent activities and data mining. The report released today explains how recent developments have only confirmed the urgency of these warnings.

“Since we wrote our first report, there have been numerous incidents around the country that have confirmed the substance and the seriousness of our warnings,” said ACLU National Security Policy Counsel and report co-author Michael German. “We warned that the structure of fusion centers was ripe for abuse, and that recruiting every corner beat cop to file reports on innocent everyday behavior was a bad idea. Already, we have seen criminal abuses in California, and many reports of law enforcement personnel wasting their time harassing perfectly innocent individuals.”

“Congress and state officials need to learn more about fusion centers, engage in some very pointed inquiry about the effectiveness and the precise role of these centers, and at a minimum put in place strong checks and balances,” said Fredrickson. “Too often, we’ve given our government new powers to fight terrorists, only to have them used against peace activists and other innocent Americans. This can’t be the future of law enforcement. Congress needs to end private sector participation and military involvement in law enforcement. We need to learn from our mistakes, not repeat them.”

The report is available online at:

To read the report addendum, go to:

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