OPINION – I do not own a “tinfoil hat” or buy into conspiracy theories, yet there are things that come up occasionally on our morning talk radio show that leave me scratching my head. These are topics not usually discussed on mainstream news channels.
Fusion centers is one of those topics.
Following the aftermath of 9/11, there have been 77 fusion centers set up around the country. Utah’s fusion center is located in Salt Lake City and is called The Utah Statewide Information and Analysis Center.
Fusion centers were designed to integrate sources of various state and federal law enforcement entities under one roof, in each state, to capture and share information or “government intelligence” on individuals who may be a terrorist or pose a threat to the security of our nation. It seemed like a plausible goal at the time; that government agencies and local law enforcement should communicate and share information to fight the war on terror. We feared future terrorist attacks and did not pay attention to the ramifications of the rights we were giving up in exchange for security.
Former President Bush initially gave these centers the green light after the USA Patriot Act was introduced to the country; a piece of legislation that opened the door for the government to conduct authorized spying on Americans in the name of security.
Before Governor Mike Leavitt left his term back in 2003, he gave the go-ahead to enroll Utah into a pilot program called the Multistate Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange. There is as much myth as there is fact known about the MATRIX; but in simple explanation, it is a database regarded, according to the Deseret News, as the nation’s largest cyber-compilation of personal records.
The Deseret News also reported that there were many questions and concerns by legislators about whether the state’s Senate or House of Representatives knew about this pilot program and why it was approved without oversight or approval. How did that happen?
The name of the program changed from MATRIX to “fusion center,” a far less intimidating name and the pilot program did not remain temporary.
While these programs originated under Bush in response to 9/11, funding for these centers today continues under Obama’s administration through new programs and new department heads.
And more centers are cropping up around the country every year.
Our government has now spent over $1.4 billion, by some accounts, on fusion centers since their creation in 2003. Other accounts maintain that the exact spending amount is not ascertainable as it comes through a variety of sources.
What started out as an anti-terrorism effort now has hundreds of employees, with an average of five days of actual training, each, whose job is to ascertain whether we are a threat. They are analyzing and compiling files on ordinary citizen’s pictures, beliefs, social media content, political activism, possible gang activity, ideas, antigovernment sentiments, hair color, internet sites, former addresses, relatives, associates and various bits of personal information every single day.
It is unconstitutional to obtain or store information about a citizen who is not engaged in an actual crime.
In fact, an Oct. 2, 2012, report by Fox News, stated that the Senate called these centers worthless and a huge “debacle.” Fusion centers, according to U.S. Senate findings, have not really produced much of anything except gossip. According to Fox News, the Senate report also said:
“The fusion centers often produced irrelevant, useless or inappropriate intelligence reporting to the (Department of Homeland Security), and many produced no intelligence reporting whatsoever.
According to the Fox News report, “The (Senate) report … portrays an effort that ballooned far beyond anyone’s ability to control.”
No control over the very programs that they are funding? Where is the accountability?
According to a 2010 report by the Washington Post, nationally, there were 161,948 suspicious activity reports filed and of those only 103 reports resulted in just five arrests and no convictions.
That same report also cited that a one-day visit to Utah’s Fusion Center found that one of five intelligence analysts was writing a report about the rise in teenage overdoses of an over-the-counter drug. Another employee had just helped a small town track down two people who were selling magazine subscriptions and pocketing the money themselves.
Where are the so-called “terrorists?” Where are the potential threats to our national security?
Have we voluntarily given up our civil rights for the last eight years and over a billion taxpayer dollars to discover that teens do in fact overdose on cough syrup or that a neighbor who is disgusted with the government could be a potential threat?
Once the Senate published the report that these Fusion Centers are bordering on being unconstitutional, did the money stop? Are the Fusion Centers going away now?
Fusion centers are here to stay and under our current administration, the funding will stay in place. To further complicate this criminal action being funded by our government, according to Utah’s fusion center website, the government doesn’t exactly run each of the 77 individual centers themselves, as they are “working with public and private partners to identify and secure critical infrastructure against a potential threat.” Private companies actually acquire the information and share it with the government. The government only funds the offices. So, who owns our private information? Can it be breached? Can it be sold? Don’t we have a right to know who these public and private partners are?
We now have a full-fledged spy operation, funded by the government via our taxpayer dollars and without our consent, which violates the very core of our human rights; the right to free speech and the right to privacy.
In almost a decade, the work of these centers has not resulted in a single convicted terrorist.
And, the citizens of this country are not outraged.
You can find your local Fusion Center here at the DHS official website.
Kate Dalley is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives morning show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are hers and not representative of St. George News.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2012, all rights reserved.