January 20, 2012 On Thursday afternoon, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano addressed law enforcement officials at the National Sheriffs’ Association’s winter conference in Washington, D.C. to hightlight the Department’s successful counter-terrorism collaborative efforts with state and local law enforcement, first responders, and key public-private partnerships.
Secretary Napolitano touted her department’s success in implementing strategic policies designed to counter violent extremism and human trafficking, report suspicious activity, secure borders and enforce immigration laws, through training and information sharing initiatives.
Napolitano agreed with critics who argue that the “If you see something, say something” campaign tactics are frightening and admitted that the sound of her own voice omnipresence in Washington, D.C.’s metro subway system is indeed “a scary thought.”
Since the “If you see something, say something” national terrorism awareness campaign was first rolled out at train stations, Secretary Napolitano has effectively formed partnerships with the owners of much of the country’s eighty-five percent privately- owned critical infrastructure.
In pre-recorded public awareness announcements at sports arenas, universities, shopping malls, airports and hotels, Secretary Napolitano’s voice can be heard reminding U.S. citizens about the dangers of suspicious behavior such as unuattended packages.
However, it is not Secretary Napolitano’s voice that is makes civil rights advocates cringe, and public awareness reminders should not be viewed as alarming, but rather it is the rest of what she had to say that all American’s should find down right frightening.
Napolitano credited the nation’s fusion centers for the department’s ‘extraordinary progress’ in fighting the evolving terrorism threat.
“DHS intelligence officers working alongside their state and local counterparts to assess threats and share information” at fusion centers are a critical component of the department’s strategy in protecting the homeland, according to Secretary Napolitano.
Since the creation of at least 72 fusion centers across the country, controversey has insued due to the massive amount of personal information secretly collected and shared. Civil libertarians argue that decisions on what constitutes suspicious activity is left to the discretion of often times poorly trained personnel. Reporting ill-defined suspicious activity to fusion centers has resulted in the names of innocent people being entered into terrorism databases.
Fusion centers were created in response to the 9/11 Commission report’s recommendation to improve information sharing of terrorism intelligence across federal, state and local levels of government. The DHS funded centers are using federal grants to fight local crime.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released the findings of its latest report titled Relationships Between Fusion Centers and Emergency Operations Centers in which it states:
“Officials at Fusion Centers and Emergency Operations Centers we visited were not always aware of each other’s roles, capabilities, and information needs. In some areas, these officials had limited or no interaction, which could hinder response to natural or man-made disasters. Fusion Center and Emergency Operations Center officials also were not always aware of and did not always utilize federal guidance developed to address coordination and information sharing efforts. More than 83% of the locations visited were either unaware of or did not utilize federal guidance for Fusion Center and Emergency Operations Center interaction provided in Comprehensive Preparedness Guide 502.”
Mike German, a former FBI counterterrorism agent and co-author of the ACLU fusion report wrote in 2008, that fusion centers are watching and recording the everyday activities of an ever-growing list of individuals.
” it is becoming increasingly clear that fusion centers are part of a new domestic intelligence apparatus, German warned.”