A U.S. Senate subcommittee has conducted a two-year investigation of fusion centers. These centers collect information on U.S. citizens. They are run by states, but they are funded by the Department of Homeland Security.
PERMANENT SUBCOMMITTEE ON INVESTIGATIONS, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, FEDERAL SUPPORT FOR AND INVOLVEMENT IN STATE AND LOCAL FUSION CENTERS. Here are highlights from the report, which is online here. The report does not include pagination.
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The Subcommittee immediately ran into several roadblocks in its review. First, DHS was unable to produce a complete and accurate tally of the expense of its support for fusion centers.
Indeed, for years it has struggled to identify not only what money it has spent or granted to enhance fusion centers, but also how many personnel it has detailed to the centers. Also, while DHS has made attempts to assess the centers’ ability to operate, it has never evaluated the quality or impact of the centers’ contributions to federal counterterrorism efforts using the 2006 criteria it specified.
Over a period of two years, the Subcommittee reviewed more than 80,000 pages of documents, including reviews, audits, intelligence reports, emails, memoranda, grant applications, news accounts, and scholarly articles; conducted a nationwide survey of fusion centers; and interviewed over 50 current and former DHS officials, outside experts, and state and local officials.
On the first issue, the Subcommittee investigation found that DHS’s involvement with fusion centers had not produced the results anticipated by statute, White House strategies and DHS’s own 2006 plan. Specifically, DHS’s involvement with fusion centers appeared not to have yielded timely, useful terrorism-related intelligence for the federal intelligence community.
In addition, the Subcommittee investigation found that DHS has not had the proper policies, training, personnel or practices in place to responsibly and timely receive information from state and local fusion centers, and make it available to its own analysts and other federal agencies.
On the second issue, the Subcommittee investigation found that DHS did not adequately monitor the amount of funding it directed to support fusion centers; failed to conduct meaningful oversight of how state and local agencies spent grant funds DHS intended to support fusion centers; did not ensure the grants it made to fusion center projects were yielding the progress state and local officials promised; and did not attempt to determine whether the end product of its efforts and spending were commensurate with the level of its investment.
On the third issue, the Subcommittee investigation found that many fusion centers lacked either the capability or stated objective of contributing meaningfully to the federal counterterrorism mission. Many centers didn’t consider counterterrorism an explicit part of their mission, and federal officials said some were simply not concerned with doing counterterrorism work.
Despite these problems, DHS officials have been consistent in their praise for fusion centers as counterterrorism tools when speaking to Congress and the American public.
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