ACLU Calls For Internal DHS Investigations On Fusion Centers

April 1, 2009

Former Members Of Congress And Muslim Rights Group Also Voice Concerns

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

WASHINGTON – As a Homeland Security Subcommittee in the House held a hearing on fusion centers today, the American Civil Liberties Union reiterated its vast concerns that these entities provide huge risks to Americans’ privacy rights.

After testifying last week before the same committee – the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Intelligence, Information Sharing, and Terrorism Risk Assessment – the ACLU sent five letters to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties urging investigations into five troubling incidents, several of which have stemmed from DHS-funded fusion centers.

“Fusion centers have experienced a mission creep in the last several years, becoming more of a threat than a security device. With no overarching guidelines to restrict or direct them, these centers put Americans’ privacy at huge risk,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “We need our government to take a long, hard look at what’s going into these centers and, frankly, what’s coming out.”

Former Congressman Bob Barr, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), have all expressed deep concerns about the practices of fusion centers. Statements from them can be found below.

From directing local police to investigate non-violent political activists and religious groups in Texas to advocating surveillance of third-party presidential candidate supporters in Missouri, there have been repeated and persistent disclosures of troubling memos and reports from local fusions centers. The five letters sent by the ACLU to the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties asked for independent investigations into the following incidents:

  • A May 7, 2008 report entitled “Universal Adversary Dynamic Threat Assessment” authored by a private contractor that labeled environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, the Humane Society and the Audubon Society as “mainstream organizations with known or possible links to eco-terrorism”;
  • A potential abuse of authority by DHS officials who improperly monitored and disseminated the communications of peace activists affiliated with the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN);
  • A report produced on February 19, 2009 by the North Central Texas Fusion System entitled “Prevention Awareness Bulletin” which described a purported conspiracy between Muslim civil rights organizations, lobbying groups, the anti-war movement, the U.S. Treasury Department, hip hop bands and former Congresswoman and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney to “provide an environment for terrorist organizations to flourish”;
  • A “Strategic Report” produced February 20, 2009 by the Missouri Information Analysis Center that described a purported security threat posed by the “modern militia movement” but inappropriately included references to social, religious and political ideologies, including support of third party presidential candidates such as Congressman Ron Paul and former Congressman Bob Barr; and
  • A “Protective Intelligence Bulletin” issued by the DHS Intelligence Branch of the Threat Management Division of the Federal Protective Service which improperly collected and disseminated information regarding political demonstrations and inappropriately labeled peaceful advocacy groups and other activists as “extremists.”

In 2007, the ACLU released a report entitled, “What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers?” which was updated last year. The report identifies specific concerns with fusion centers, including their ambiguous lines of authority, the troubling role of private corporations, the participation of the military, the use of data mining and the excessive secrecy surrounding the centers.

The following can be attributed to former Congressman Bob Barr:
“Using the resources of federal and state law enforcement to encourage the citizenry to submit to the government information on the political, social and even religious views of other people, is in itself outrageous. For the government to then data-base that information, disseminate it widely, and clearly imply that views with which it may disagree provides an appropriate basis on which to surveil citizens and collect information on them, is beyond the pale. It is also a poor and inefficient use of police resources.”

The following can be attributed to former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney:
“As a student of COINTELPRO, the government's infamous Counter-Intelligence Program, I know what my government is capable of doing to quash dissent. That's why I voted against the Patriot Act, worked in Congress to roll back the Secret Evidence Act, and introduced legislation to repeal the Military Commissions Act. I come from a long legacy of activists for justice and freedom inside this country. I am on the advocacy front lines for peace abroad and justice at home. But I know that we will not have peace or justice without truth. Truth is the foundation of the dignity that we seek. Dignity for all is not a threat to the United States.”

The following can be attributed to The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization:
“CAIR is deeply troubled that the North Central Texas Fusion System bulletin labels monitoring the legal activities of American Muslims exercising their constitutional privileges as ‘imperative.’ In light of similar monitoring of peace and anti-death penalty activists in Maryland, CAIR believes it is time for Congress to conduct a deeper evaluation of our nation’s new domestic surveillance infrastructure.

“The author’s unprofessional presentation of known anti-Muslim sources as outlets of credible information also calls the integrity of the entire fusion system into doubt. This second point is an overt manifestation of the ‘Inaccurate or Incomplete Information’ identified in a December, 2008 Department of Homeland Security report on a number of risks to privacy presented by the fusion center program.

“Based on this and other recent incidents and initiatives targeting the Muslim community nationwide, we are concerned that the rights of American Muslims to participate fully in our country’s political process and practice their faith free of government intrusion is under assault.”

To read the ACLU’s letters to the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, go to:
www.aclu.org/privacy

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

Related documents:

> Universal Dynamic Threat Assessment Classifying Environmental Groups As "Ecoterrorists"
> Improper Surveillance of Anti-War Activists in Maryland
> The North Texas Fusion Center's "Prevention Awareness Bulletin"
> The Threat Management Division Of Federal Protective Services' Improper Monitoring Of Civil Activists
> Missouri Fusion Center's Strategic Report

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