The state and local fusion centers supported by the Department of Homeland Security have produced little intelligence of value and have generated new concerns involving waste and abuse, according to an investigative report from the Senate Homeland Security Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. (NYT, WP)Very encouraging
“It’s troubling that the very ‘fusion’ centers that were designed to share information in a post-9/11 world have become part of the problem. Instead of strengthening our counterterrorism efforts, they have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties,” said Senator Tom Coburn, the ranking member of the Subcommittee who initiated the investigation.
While it may not be the last word on the subject, the new Subcommittee report is a rare example of congressional oversight in the classical mode. It was performed by professional investigators over a two-year period. It encountered and overcame agency resistance and non-cooperation. And it uncovered — and published — significant new information that demands an executive branch response. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.
One key finding from the report (pdf) was that "Many Terrorism-Related HIRs [Homeland Information Reports] from Fusion Centers Appeared to Duplicate a Faster, More Efficient Information-Sharing Process." Another was that "DHS Intelligence Reporting Officials Who Repeatedly Violated Guidelines Faced No Sanction." The report also criticized fusion centers on the grounds that "Retaining Inappropriate Records is Contrary to DHS Policies and the Privacy Act."
See Grits' recent related item, "Fusion centers' lameness thus far trumps civil liberties threats."