Today, the a United States Senate committee issued a report – labeled “scathing” by some – on the work of fusion centers across the United States. Fusion Centers, mainly formed after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, are designed to share information and analysis about suspected criminal activity across federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
Just two weeks ago, the ACLU of Illinois issued an analysis of the two fusion centers in Illinois – one operated by the Chicago Police Department and the other by the Illinois State Police. The ACLU of Illinois report concluded that both fusion centers failed to put in place a number of modest guidelines that could help ensure privacy of residents of Illinois.
A New York Times story this morning on the report points out a specific, egregious “dysfunction” of the centers. The Statewide center in Springfield reported that Russian computer “hackers” had compromised the operating system of the Springfield water system and caused a motor to burn out. It turns out that the person accessing the system was an employee on vacation in Russia, and his accessing the system was unrelated to the motor malfunctioning.
The story sums up the problems with fusion centers in this way: The report found that the centers “forwarded intelligence of uneven quality — oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”