New OTG Report Finds Abuses Persist at DHS Fusion Centers

Open The Government today released a new report on state and local “fusion centers,” created to share counterterrorism intelligence across government agencies to prevent the communication and coordination failures that contributed to the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

“The Cost of Fear: Long-Cited Abuses Persist at U.S. Government-Funded Post-9/11 Fusion Centers” report concludes that fusion centers display a persistent pattern of violating Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, producing unreliable and ineffective information, and resisting financial and other types of standard public accountability even though they receive billions of dollars from the federal government, under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security.

A summary of OTG’s findings is below and the report is live here

  • Despite strong criticism and recommendations from the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 2012, the fusion centers and the federal agencies providing so much of their funding have made few if any, meaningful improvements to improve effectiveness and public accountability.
  • Intelligence shared by fusion centers continues to be unreliable and ineffective, even though the federal government has funneled billions of dollars – as much as $1.4 billion as of 2012 and $1.12 billion for 2020 from DHS’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • Fusion centers, including those in Chicago, Memphis, and Boston, continue to conduct monitoring on activity that should be protected by the First Amendment, including free speech, freedom religion, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press.
  • Rather than limiting the use of sensitive and even potentially abusive new technologies such as artificial intelligence, facial recognition software (used in 10 centers), and automated social media monitoring tools, to reduce the risk of violating Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, fusion centers and other federal information-sharing programs wield these new tools irresponsibly and far beyond their traditional counterterrorism mission.