Monday, August 03, 2020

'Citizen Spying Program' revealed in #BlueLeaks documents, Austin Chronicle reported; general ineptitude at fusion centers likely prevents worse abuses

Grits wanted to flag this report from the Austin Chronicle on some of the "BlueLeaks" revelations dumped from, among other agencies, Texas fusion centers. The Chron reported that the documents "reveal a secret citizen spying program that's active in the Austin area and across the country." They plan to follow up with future stories.

Reported the Chron's John Anderson, about 800 so-called Threat Liaison Officers (TLOs) "report suspicious activity or behavior" to the Austin fusion center. TLOs "include sworn law enforcement officers, but also non-sworn government employees as well as private citizens." Some TLOs work as "private security officers with local hotels, malls, large venues, and local semiconductor companies. Others are government employees in 'education,' 'code enforcement,' and 'public works.'" Further, documents alluded to partner organizations in the "military," "hospital systems," and the "faith community."

Texas Civil Rights Project lawyer and fusion center Community Advocate Peter Steffensen told the Chronicle the TLO program creates "a cadre of anonymous, non-law-enforcement citizen informants who, unlike ARIC, are completely unaccountable to the public."

Grits tracked fusion center activities some when they first rolled out, but soon concluded that their ineptitude and irrelevant methods, in practice, trumped the potential civil liberties threats. I more or less feel about them as I did in 2008: "[P]robably the greatest comfort to me about potential abuse of fusion centers is that I don't believe analysts can meaningfully comb through that much data pro-actively, which means their work is reactive and thus largely redundant and worthless. I see them, at least so far, as more a pointless boondoggle than a tangible privacy threat. That could change, though, if we begin to hear evidence these data streams have been abused."

We've seen some of these criticisms before, but now researchers can review primary documentation for themselves. Grits still considers Texas fusion centers more boondoggle than threat. But the potential threat is certainly there, and it grows when hundreds of private informants have access to this information, even if they've signed non-disclosure agreements.


Steven Michael Seys said...

Perhaps, Scott, they're installing these "Fusion Centers" to get ready for the takeover of Big Brother from Orwell's 1984. Once they get the public used to the idea of spying on their neighbors it will be easy to use that information to stop all resistance to a totalitarian regime. I begin to wonder.

Anonymous said...

Freedom is the ability to say that 13-0=12

War is peace
Freedom is slavery
Longhorns are Aggies said...

I don't trust it at all. It sounds like something that could get outta hand & turn us into a society of snitches...Oh wait, I forgot thanks to the "war" on drugs, that's already happened.

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