One of the few comparatively new features in the post-cold war landscape of U.S. intelligence is the emergence of dozens of domestic intelligence “fusion centers.”
These are state and local offices across the country that are supposed to integrate (or “fuse”) multiple information streams from national intelligence sources together with local law enforcement and other data in order to enhance homeland security and increase preparedness against terrorism or natural disasters.
A major new report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service finds that this aspect of the domestic intelligence and homeland security infrastructure is still far from mature.
“It is unclear if a single fusion center has successfully adopted a truly proactive prevention approach to information analysis and sharing. No state and its local jurisdictions appear to have fully adopted the intelligence cycle.”
In principle, fusion centers represent a conduit “through which federal intelligence can flow across the country.”
But “numerous fusion center officials claim that although their center receives a substantial amount of information from federal agencies, they never seem to get the ‘right information’ or receive it in an efficient manner,” the CRS report stated.
“It could be argued that if information flow into fusion centers is limited, the quality of the information is questionable, and the center doesn’t have personnel with the appropriate skill sets to understand the information, then the end result may not provide value.”
At the same time, “the potential fusion center use of private sector data, the adoption of a more proactive approach, and the collection of intelligence by fusion center staff and partners has led to questions about possible civil liberties abuses,” the report noted.
There are now more than 40 intelligence fusion centers around the country. The 100-page CRS report includes a map and a list of these centers. A copy was obtained by Secrecy News.
See “Fusion Centers: Issues and Options for Congress,” July 6, 2007.