New Report Supports ACLU Warnings on Fusion Centers

April 2, 2008 12:00 am

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Washington, DC – A new document obtained by the Washington Post supports warnings by the American Civil Liberties Union regarding the post-9/11 institutions known as fusion centers. A story published today in the Post confirms fusion centers’ growing role in law enforcement and reveals their expanding ties to private industry, including relationships with massive data-brokering companies. The ACLU released a report last year outlining serious concerns with fusion centers.

“Fusion centers, if not carefully run, could be ticking privacy time bombs,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The idea that so much of our information is so available to such a wide range of people should be alarming to the American public. While the authority and size of fusion centers grow, Americans’ privacy rights have not gained any new protections. We are not seeing the right kind of checks and balances put in place to control these powerful new institutions.”

The ACLU’s report, entitled “What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers?” was written by the ACLU’s Michael German and Jay Stanley. It identifies specific concerns with fusion centers, including their ambiguous lines of authority, the role of private corporations, the participation of the military, the use of data mining and the excessive secrecy surrounding the institutions. More recently, the Virginia State Legislature has begun moving a bill that would throw a cloak of secrecy over the state’s fusion center by exempting it from open-records requests. The ACLU remains concerned that this is the beginning of a national trend to close down public information about a growing domestic intelligence apparatus.

“Some would have us know less and less about fusion centers even as they know more and more about us,” said German, ACLU National Security Policy Counsel. “Members of Congress and state legislators should be pushing for more facts on fusion centers. They need to institute clear and rigorous rules regarding how their constituents’ personal data is handled. Americans should also be on guard. This is a time for more information, not less. If Americans are not vocal about the steady march towards a total surveillance society, they may find themselves living in a frightening new world.”

To read the ACLU’s report on fusion centers, go to:
www.aclu.org/fusion

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