Secrecy News

Intelligence Fusion Centers Emerge Across the U.S.

The contours of the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy are expanding to include dozens of new “intelligence fusion centers” based around the country.

An intelligence fusion center is “a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise, and/or information to the center with the goal of maximizing the ability to detect, prevent, apprehend, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.”

A list of state and regional intelligence fusion centers (pdf) that have been established as of March 2006 was obtained by Secrecy News.

Last year, the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security published guidelines for the operation of fusion centers dealing with law enforcement intelligence.

See “Fusion Center Guidelines: Developing and Sharing Information and Intelligence in a New World,” July 2005 (1.8 MB PDF).

So far, the fusion centers have not been an unqualified success. State officials express growing unhappiness with the contribution of federal intelligence agencies, according to a new survey (pdf) from the National Governors Association:

“Sixty percent of responding state homeland security directors are dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with the specificity of the intelligence they receive from the federal government. An additional 55 percent are dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied with the actionable quality of the intelligence they receive from the federal government.”

“These numbers represent a sharp increase from the combined dissatisfied/somewhat dissatisfied percentages from the previous year,” according to the April 5 NGA survey.

The fusion centers are one aspect of a broader effort to promote sharing of intelligence information within the government.

The Intelligence Reform Act of 2004 (section 1016) called for the creation of an Information Sharing Environment (ISE), which is defined as “an approach that facilitates the sharing of terrorism information, which approach may include any methods determined necessary.”

This too is a work in progress, at best, that remains far from achieving its objective.

“More than 4 years after September 11, the nation still lacks the government-wide policies and processes that Congress called for to provide a framework for guiding and integrating the myriad of ongoing efforts to improve the sharing of terrorism-related information critical to protecting our homeland,” the Government Accountability Office stated in a report (pdf) published last week.

Selected resources on the ISE are available here.

It should be noted that “information sharing” in this context does not extend to public disclosure of government information. To the contrary, information sharing policies may even create new barriers to public access through the use of non-disclosure agreements and similar devices.