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“Fusion Centers” to Gather Intelligence on Peaceful Protesters

“Fusion Centers” to Gather Intelligence on Peaceful Protesters

The Progressive

July 30, 2008

On the heels of the Maryland State Police spying scandal, the ACLU is ringing the alarms over “fusion centers.”

These are the state-by-state groupings of various law enforcement agencies working together at all levels, from local police to the FBI, NSA, and CIA, ostensibly to share terrorism threat information. But, as we saw in the Maryland case, they may sometimes just be sharing information about lawful, peaceful First Amendment-protected speech.

There is “mission creep from watching out for terrorism to watching out for peace activists,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office, in a press conference July 29. She called the fusion centers an incipient “domestic intelligence apparatus.” And she warned that the kind of spying that occurred in Maryland was “very dangerous to our democracy.”

In December 2007, the ACLU published a report “What’s Wrong with Fusion Centers?”

It noted that there are more than 40 fusion centers already created. And it cited several problems with them, including the participation of military personnel in law enforcement, as well as “private sector participation.” “Fusion centers are incorporating private-sector corporations into the intelligence process, breaking down the arm’s length relationship that protects the privacy of innocent Americans who are employees or customers of these companies.”

On July 29, the ACLU issued an update to that report.

The fusion centers represent an attempt to create a “total surveillance society,” the update says.

It notes that the LAPD fed into its fusion center an array of ““suspicious activity reports” that included such innocuous activities as “taking notes” or “drawing diagrams” or “using binoculars.” (Since one out of six Americans is a birdwatcher, this last item could really swell the files.)

The “suspicious activity” criteria of the LAPD “gives law enforcement officers justification to harass practically anyone they choose, to collect personal information, and to pass such information along to the intelligence community,” the update says.

Frighteningly, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has called the LAPD program “a national model.”

The Director of National Intelligence urges state and local law enforcement to “report non-criminal suspicious activities,” the update says. According to the standards of the Director of National Intelligence, these activities are defined as “observed behavior that may be indicative of intelligence gathering or pre-operational planning related to terrorism, criminal, or other illicit intention.”

The ACLU notes that “other illicit intention” is not defined, and that fusion centers are fed intelligence before “reasonable suspicion” is established.

Fusion centers also engage in data mining, as they rely not only on FBI and CIA records. They also often “have subscriptions with private data brokers such as Accurint, ChoicePoint, Lexis-Nexus, and LocatePlus, a database containing cell phone numbers and unpublished telephone records,” the ACLU notes, referring to a Washington Post article from April 2.

The ACLU calls fusion centers “out-of-control data-gathering monsters.”

While the government is gathering more and more information about us citizens, it’s trying to shield itself from telling us what it’s doing. “There appears to be an effort by the federal government to coerce states into exempting their fusion centers from state open government laws,” the ACLU notes. “For those living in Virginia, it’s already too late: The Virginia General Assembly passed a law in April 2008 exempting the state’s fusion center from the Freedom of Information Act.”

As I noted in “The New Snoops: Terrorism Liaison Officers, Some from the Private Sector”, the Department of Justice has come up with “Fusion Center Guidelines” that flat-out recommend that “fusion centers and their leadership encourage appropriate policymakers to legislate the protection of private sector data provided to fusion centers.”

The ACLU is absolutely right: Congress must investigate these fusion centers and exercise appropriate oversight before law enforcement agencies and their private sector partners violate the rights of more Americans and usher us all into the total surveillance society.

 

Bush turning intelligence agencies on Americans
Raw Story
July 31, 2008

President Bush seems to be slowly turning the nation’s massive surveillance apparatus upon its citizens, and some worry that administration assurances to protect civil liberties are nothing but empty promises.

With his update to a decades-old executive order governing the Intelligence Community, Bush is giving the Director of National Intelligence and the 16 agencies of the US Intelligence Community more power to access and share sensitive information on Americans with little to no independent oversight. The update to Executive Order 12333, first issued by former President Ronald Reagan, introduces a more prominent role for the Attorney General in approving intelligence gathering methods, calls for collaboration with local law enforcement agencies, eases limits on how information can be shared and urges cooperation between the IC and private companies.

“This Intelligence Community that was built to deal with foreign threats is now being slowly and incrementally turned inward,” says Mike German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, in an interview with RAW STORY.

Bush’s latest update of a decades old executive order governing intelligence activities is a “lit fuse” that could end with the Constitution’s immolation, another ACLU official says.

“This kind of concentrated power, exercised in secret, is a lit fuse with our Constitution likely in danger of being burned,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington legislative office.

The White House insists that the update to Executive Order 12333 maintains protections for Americans’ civil liberties, but senior administration officials who briefed reporters Thursday provided little reassurance that the new order would correct some of the Bush administration’s most egregious abuses.

Read Full Article Here

Peaceful Activist labeled a “terrorist” in a federally-funded domestic terrorism database
http://noworldsystem.com/2008/07/19/..d-spy-on-protest-groups/

 


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