Nadine Strossen, Anthony Romero, Caroline Fredrickson, Washington Legislative, Office Zacks, Michael German, Jay Stanley
2007 unpublished
A new institution is emerging in American life: Fusion Centers. These state, local and regional institutions were originally created to improve the sharing of anti-terrorism intelligence among different state, local and federal law enforcement agencies. Though they developed independently and remain quite different from one another, for many the scope of their mission has quickly expanded-with the support and encouragement of the federal government-to cover "all crimes and all hazards." The
more » ... s of information they seek for analysis has also broadened over time to include not just criminal intelligence , but public and private sector data, and participation in these centers has grown to include not just law enforcement, but other government entities, the military and even select members of the private sector. These new fusion centers, over 40 of which have been established around the country, raise very serious privacy issues at a time when new technology, government powers and zeal in the "war on terrorism" are combining to threaten Americans' privacy at an unprecedented level. Moreover, there are serious questions about whether data fusion is an effective means of preventing terrorism in the first place, and whether funding the development of these centers is a wise investment of finite public safety resources. Yet federal, state and local governments are increasing their investment in fusion centers without properly assessing whether they serve a necessary purpose. There's nothing wrong with the government seeking to do a better job of properly sharing legitimately acquired information about law enforcement investigations-indeed, that is one of the things that 9/11 tragically showed is very much needed. But in a democracy, the collection and sharing of intelligence information-especially information about American citizens and other residents-need to be carried out with the utmost care. That is because more and more, the amount of information available on each one of us is enough to assemble a very detailed portrait of our lives. And because security agencies are moving toward using such portraits to profile how "suspicious" we look. 1