Monday, September 21, 2009

Footnote to the preceding

I haven't posted a lot about privacy issues lately but that doesn't mean the concern has lessened.

For example, there's the fact that local police and even private businesses are about to get access to classified military intelligence.
Fusion centers are hubs for local law enforcement, the private sector and the intelligence community, and were created in an effort to fight terrorism. There are more than seventy known centers across the United States.
And those centers are now going to have access to classified intelligence, even though as recently as July, Janet Napolitano, secretary of the Department for the Protection of the Fatherland, said that fusion centers were not supposed to have a military presence. According to Michael Macleod-Ball of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office,
There is a stunning lack of oversight at these fusion centers and, as we’ve seen, these centers are rapidly becoming a breeding ground for overzealous intelligence activities. Opening the door for domestic law enforcement to gain access to classified military intelligence coupled with no guidelines restricting the military’s role in fusion centers is a recipe for disaster.
And yes, we have seen. In February, the North Central Texas Fusion Center said it's “imperative" for police to report the activities of lobbying groups, Muslim civil rights organizations, and anti-war groups in their areas. Also in February, a “Strategic Report” produced by the Missouri Information Analysis Center described a claimed security threat posed by underground militias - but connected them to various social, religious, and political ideologies. That same report
specifically cautioned police to be on the lookout for bumper stickers advertising third party candidates [such as Ron Paul or Bob Barr], or people with copies of the United States Constitution.
(Under pressure, the report was withdrawn in May.)

In April, a leaked memo from the Virginia Fusion Center, one which declared in its first paragraph that NO REPORT OR SEGMENT THEREOF MAY BE RELEASED TO ANY MEDIA SOURCES (all caps in original), labeled US universities as potential "radicalization nodes" for terrorists - and singled out two historically black colleges in its area for special note.

In a statement in April, the ACLU listed three other incidents:

- A May 2008 report by a private contractor labeled environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, the Humane Society, and the Audubon Society “mainstream organizations with known or possible links to eco-terrorism.”
- Department for the Protection of the Fatherland officials monitored and disseminated the communications of people affiliated with the DC Anti-War Network (DAWN);
- A bulletin issued by the DPF collected and disseminated information regarding legal, peaceful political demonstrations and labeled peaceful advocacy groups as “extremists.”

And now these same sorts of outfits - which, again, include not only local police but private interests - are going to get access to classified military intelligence, further increasing the amount of personal information about the rest of us to which they have access even as their own activities are hidden from view.

I feel safer all the time.

Footnote: The ACLU's December 2007 paper on these fusion centers can be found here.

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