Homeland Security ‘Fusion’ Centers Spy on Citizens, Produce ‘Shoddy’ Work, Report Says
The Department of Homeland Security has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a network of 77 so-called “fusion” intelligence centers that have collected personal information on some U.S. citizens — including detailing the “reading habits” of American Muslims — while producing “shoddy” reports and making no contribution to thwarting any terrorist plots, a new Senate report states.
The ” fusion centers,” created under President George W. Bush and expanded under President Barack Obama, consist of special teams of federal , state and local officials collecting and analyzing intelligence on suspicious activities throughout the country. They have been hailed by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as “one of the centerpieces” of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts.
But a bipartisan report by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released Tuesday concludes that the centers “often produced irrelevant” and “useless” intelligence reports. “There were times when it was, ‘What a bunch of crap is coming through,’” one senior Homeland Security official is quoted as saying .
A spokesman for Napolitano immediately blasted the report as “out of date, inaccurate and misleading.” Another Homeland Security official, who spoke with NBC News on condition of anonymity, said the department has made improvements to the fusion centers and that the skills of officials working in them are “evolving and maturing.”
While dismissing the value of much of the fusion centers’ work, the Senate panel found evidence of what it called “troubling” reports by some centers that may have violated the civil liberties and privacy of U.S. citizens. The evidence cited in the report could fuel a continuing controversy over claims that the FBI and some local police departments, notably New York City’s, have spied on American Muslims without a justifiable law enforcement reason for doing so. Among the examples in the report: