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Local Fusion Centers
October 5, 2012 at 1:40 pm #170502
A report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations / Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
Title: FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR AND INVOLVEMENT IN STATE AND LOCAL FUSION CENTERS
I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Sharing terrorism-related information between state, local and federal officials is crucial to protecting the United States from another terrorist attack. Achieving this objective was the motivation for Congress and the White House to invest hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars over the last nine years in support of dozens of state and local fusion centers across the United States.
The Subcommittee investigation found that DHS-assigned detailees to the fusion 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.
Congress directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead this initiative. A bipartisan investigation by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has found, however, that DHS’ work with those state and local fusion centers has not produced useful intelligence to support federal counterterrorism efforts.
The Subcommittee investigation also found that DHS officials’ public claims about fusion centers were not always accurate. For instance, DHS officials asserted that some fusion centers existed when they did not. At times, DHS officials overstated fusion centers’ “success stories.” At other times, DHS officials failed to disclose or acknowledge non-public evaluations highlighting a host of problems at fusion centers and in DHS’ own operations.
Since 2003, over 70 state and local fusion centers, supported in part with federal funds, have been created or expanded in part to strengthen U.S. intelligence capabilities, particularly to detect, disrupt, and respond to domestic terrorist activities. DHS’ support for and involvement with these state and local fusion centers has, from the beginning, centered on their professed ability to strengthen federal counterterrorism efforts
Regarding the centers themselves, the Subcommittee investigation learned that a 2010 assessment of state and local fusion centers conducted at the request of DHS found widespread deficiencies in the centers’ basic counterterrorism information-sharing capabilities. DHS did not share that report with Congress or discuss its findings publicly. When the Subcommittee requested the assessment as part of its investigation, DHS at first denied it existed, then disputed whether it could be shared with Congress, before ultimately providing a copy.
In 2011, DHS conducted its own, less rigorous assessment of fusion centers. While its resulting findings were more positive, they too indicated ongoing weaknesses at the fusion centers.
The findings of both the 2010 and 2011 assessments contradict public statements by DHS officials who have described fusion centers as “one of the centerpieces of our counterterrorism strategy,”2 and “a major force multiplier in the counterterrorism enterprise.”
Despite reviewing 13 months’ worth of reporting originating from fusion centers from April 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010, the Subcommittee investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot. Instead, the investigation found:
Download report (PDF file) http://info.publicintelligence.net/HSGAC-FusionCenters.pdfUnited States Senate
October 5, 2012 at 1:44 pm #170519
more information and some commentary from Fierce Homeland Security
Senate subcommittee lambastes fusion centers
Intelligence products are ‘shoddy, rarely timely’ and can infringe on civil liberties
October 3, 2012 | By David Perera
A Senate subcommittee says fusion centers haven’t meaningfully contributed to federal counterterrorism efforts, and in some cases may have hindered or sidetracked those efforts. Also, analytical reports created by untrained federal employees stationed at fusion centers, which aggregate intelligence and law-enforcement information, have endangered civil liberty and privacy protections.
The report (.pdf), by the majority and minority staff of the permanent subcommittee on investigations within the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, examines a year’s worth of intelligence reports sent to the Homeland Security Department Office of Intelligence and Analysis by DHS personnel stationed in those centers, which number more than 70 (the exact number, the report states, is uncertain).
October 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm #170517
This should come as no surprise to anyone close to these centers….their mission is not particularly clear and LE agencies in many cases do not historically share information well……especially to those partners outside the LE community….not to mention the governance and technological challenges of working together in a shared environment….all that being said, I support the fusion center concept because information sharing is essential to dealing with multi agency/multi jurisdictional incidents…the bigger question is how to improve the model? what ought they focus on? what has worked [and what has not]? I would like to see some discussion of thoughts for moving forward in this forum…..thanks John C
October 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm #170515
Senator Lieberman statement regarding report:
WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Wednesday reacted critically to a subcommittee report on fusion centers.
“I strongly disagree with the report’s core assertion that ‘fusion centers have been unable to meaningfully contribute to federal counterterrorism efforts,’” Lieberman said. “This statement is not supported by the examples presented in the report and is contrary to the public record, which shows fusion centers have played a significant role in many recent terrorism cases and have helped generate hundreds of tips and leads that have led to current FBI investigations.
“The report does include valuable findings in some areas. It cites examples of inappropriate use of homeland security grant funds and accurately notes that FEMA has struggled to account for how homeland security grant funds are allocated and used, a longstanding concern of mine.
“But the report also contradicts public statements by the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the FBI, who have acknowledged the value fusion centers provide to the intelligence community.
“Fusion centers have stepped up to meet an urgent need in the last decade,” Lieberman said. “Without fusion centers, we would not be able to connect the dots. Fusion centers have been essential to breaking down the information silos and communications barriers that kept the government from detecting the most horrific terrorist attack on this country – even though federal, state, and local officials each held valuable pieces of the puzzle.”
October 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm #170513
Response to the Senate PSI report: by the National Fusion Center Association
The nation’s law enforcement and state leaders strongly disagree with the recently released report titled Federal Support for and Involvement in State and Local Fusion Centers. Simply put, the report displays a fundamental disconnect and severe misunderstanding of the federal government’s role in supporting state and locally owned and operated fusion centers and the critical role that fusion centers play in the national counterterrorism effort.
Even more alarming is the fact that the report misrepresents the findings and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, which called for increased information and intelligence sharing between and among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies.
Importantly, the report does not address the significant benefits that fusion centers provide to state, local and tribal law enforcement. Additionally, the report incorrectly asserts that a majority of the information or intelligence released by fusion centers is untimely, inaccurate and of little use. This assertion is false.
October 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm #170511
October 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm #170509
Meanwhile, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) also issued a statement
Washington, D.C. – Today, Rep. Peter T. King (R-NY), Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, issued the following statement in response to a report issued by a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on fusion centers:
“With the ongoing, post-9/11 terror threat facing our Homeland, it is important that we continue to ensure that State and local law enforcement has access to vital intelligence as part of the homeland security mission.
“Certainly, information sharing and the fusion center network are worthy topics of Congressional oversight.
“However, I agree with Chairman Joe Lieberman and Ranking Member Susan Collins that the subcommittee report issued this week paints with too broad a brush an incomplete picture that fails to recognize many of the important contributions that fusion centers have made in securing our Homeland.
“The House Homeland Security Committee has long focused on ensuring their effectiveness. In fact, my Committee is in the final stages of an extensive review of fusion centers and will offer significant recommendations for improvement in the coming weeks.”
October 7, 2012 at 8:54 am #170507
A little more information and comments from the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
U.S. Senate subcommittee blasts intelligence fusion centers, including the one in Northeast Ohio
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A U.S. Senate subcommittee has issued findings critical of Department of Homeland Security fusion centers around the country, including the one in Northeast Ohio.
Criticisms of the Northeast Ohio Regional Fusion Center included that the “center is lacking in its ability to process, collate, or disseminate information . . . Based on self-assessment, the center appears to be struggling. The center exhibits limited capability to support the intelligence cycle.”
Local officials said the report is outdated and significant improvements have been made.
The subcommittee also cited a 2010 capabilities assessment conducted for the Department of Homeland Security that said the Northeast Ohio center was all but completely incapable of functioning as a fusion center.
Bill Schenkelberg, the center’s director, said there were problems at the agency due to inexperience and inconsistent leadership, but reforms instituted since he took over in mid-2011, have improved operations.
Schenkelberg is at least the third director of the agency.
October 7, 2012 at 1:50 pm #170505
more commentary… This one from thehill blog
Republicans: Report shows DHS not up to cybersecurity challenge
By Brendan Sasso – 10/04/12 12:02 PM ET
Senate Republicans are arguing that a recent congressional report on the Homeland Security Department shows that the agency lacks the skills and resources to take a lead role in protecting the nation’s computer systems.
The report, issued earlier this week by Sens. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), concludes that DHS “fusion” intelligence-sharing centers wasted taxpayer dollars by analyzing and relaying information that was either duplicative or unrelated to counterterrorism. The regional centers produced “useless” reports but also collected information on innocent American Muslims, the lawmakers found.
Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said the findings bolster their arguments that the Homeland Security Department should have a limited role in cybersecurity.
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