Fusion Center's Improper Investigations
- Fusion Center Encourages Improper Investigations Of Lobbying Groups And Anti-War Activists
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WASHINGTON A Texas fusion center's "Prevention Awareness Bulletin"
made public last night is the latest example of inappropriate police
intelligence operations targeting political, religious and social
activists for investigation. The North Central Texas Fusion System
bulletin states that it is "imperative for law enforcement officers to
report" the activities of lobbying groups, Muslim civil rights
organizations and anti-war protest groups in their areas.
"This memo is not a plea for legitimate intelligence, and seems to
endorse discrimination against Muslims," said Caroline Fredrickson,
Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "The idea that the
tolerance advocated by the groups being targeted would be treated as a
menace to American security demonstrates a disregard for civil
liberties and a disdain for democracy itself. The kind of
indiscriminate and unlawful investigations this bulletin calls for
always results in a chilling effect on free speech and association."
The federal government has facilitated the growth of a network of
fusion centers since 9/11 to expand information collection and sharing
practices among law enforcement agencies, the private sector and the
intelligence community. There are currently 70 fusion centers in the
"It should be obvious with the constant news of increased violence
in Mexico that Texas needs law enforcement to focus on real criminal
threats instead of targeting religious minorities and groups with
unpopular political opinions." Rebecca Bernhardt, ACLU TX Policy
Director said, "The North Central Texas Fusion Center should
be reviewed to determine whether it can contribute to the serious
public safety mission of Texas or not."
Proponents have claimed all fusion center personnel receive civil
rights training, and that this training is sufficient to protect the
privacy and civil liberties of Americans living in the communities
where fusion centers operate, but this is obviously not the case. The
ACLU has long warned that ambiguities regarding who controls these
fusion centers and a complete lack of oversight over their intelligence activities would lead to violations like this.
"The Texas fusion center's bulletin shows an unhealthy disregard for
constitutional rights and democratic processes," said Michael German,
ACLU National Security Policy Counsel and former FBI Agent. "It
demonstrates the lack of professionalism that exists at fusion centers
and the severe lack of oversight at the state, local and federal
levels. According to its website, North Central Texas Fusion System
bulletins are disseminated to thousands of people in over a hundred
different agencies, and this report directs law enforcement officers
to `report' on the political activities of advocacy groups. The web of
connections it weaves drawing parallels between Muslim civil
liberties groups, lobbying organizations, peace activists, hip hop
bands, a former congresswoman and even the U.S. Treasury Department
would be comical if not for the real consequences that these
organizations and individuals might face."
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. As a national trend continues to close down public information about this domestic intelligence network, it continues to grow out of control.
Recent revelations of the Department of Homeland Security's role in the Maryland State Police Department's surveillance of peace groups have deepened the ACLU's concerns, particularly because a DHS intelligence analyst is reportedly assigned to the North Central Texas Fusion System.
To read the ACLU's report on fusion centers, go to:
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