Fusion centers and Data Collection

Fusion centers and Data Collection

Kaye Beach 01/03/10

The principal role of the fusion centers is to compile, analyze, and disseminate criminal/terrorist information and intelligence and other information (including, but not limited to, threat, public safety, law enforcement, public health, social services, and public works) to support efforts to anticipate, identify, prevent, and/or monitor criminal/terrorist activity. This criminal information and intelligence should be both strategic (i.e., designed to provide general guidance of patterns and trends) and tactical (i.e., focused on a specific criminal event).

–Fusion Center Guidelines

Fusion Center Guidelines published by DHS and the Department of Justice encourage fusion centers to broaden their sources of data “beyond criminal intelligence, to include federal intelligence as well as public and private sector data. Rather than being constrained by the law regarding what they can collect, Delaware State Police Captain Bill Harris, head of the Delaware Information Analysis Center (DIAC), appeared to feel constrained only by resources: “I don’t want to say it’s unlimited, but the ceiling is very high… When we have the money, we’ll start going to those other agencies and say, ‘Are you willing to share that database and what would it cost.'”


Where Will the Data Come From?

Appendix C of the Guidelines outlines a detailed list of entities that should be included in the local and state fusion center matrix.

(Source Fusion Center Guidelines: Appendix C)

Banking and Finance
Chemical Industry
Hazardous Materials
Criminal Justice
Real Estate
Emergency Services
Public Health Services
Social Services
Hospitality and Lodging
Information & Telecom
Military Facilities
DOD Industrial Base
Postal and Shipping
Private Security
Public Works


According to the Homeland Security Website;

As of July 2009, there were 72 designated fusion centers around the country with 36 field representatives deployed.

The Department has provided more than $254 million from FY 2004-2007 to state and local governments to support the centers.

The Homeland Security Data Network (HSDN), which allows the federal government to move information and intelligence to the states at the Secret level, is deployed at 27 fusion centers. Through HSDN, fusion center staff can access the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), a classified portal of the most current terrorism-related information.

The Department has deployed intelligence officers to state fusion centers in:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Louisiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

The Department has also deployed support to fusion centers in New York City, Los Angeles and the Dallas region.



Data mining is the practice of using database software to compile and sift through large amounts of data, often of a personal nature, for the purpose of producing profiles of people, analyzing activity and deducing patterns in the information.

From Digital Person a book written by Daniel Solove, Professor of Law at George Washington University Law School

Data Mining: The NRC Takes on Data Mining, Behavioral Surveillance, and Privacy

The National Research Council released a report on the effectiveness of collecting and mining personal data, such as such as phone, medical, and travel records or Web sites visited, as a tool for combating terrorism. The report, titled Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists: A Framework for Program Assessment, was produced by a multi-year study was carried out at the request of DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and NSF.

NRC Findings

“Far more problematic are automated data-mining techniques that search databases for unusual patterns of activity not already known to be associated with terrorists.

Actions such as arrest, search, or denial of rights should never be taken solely on the basis of an automated data-mining result”

The committee also examined behavioral surveillance techniques, which try to identify terrorists by observing behavior or measuring physiological states. There is no scientific consensus on whether these techniques are ready for use at all in counterterrorism

The report says; at most they should be used for preliminary screening, to identify those who merit follow-up investigation. Further, they have enormous potential for privacy violations because they will inevitably force targeted individuals to explain and justify their mental and emotional states.”

According to the NRC;

Automated identification of terrorists through data mining (or any other known methodology) is neither feasible as an objective nor desirable as a goal of technology development efforts.

Inevitable false positives will result in “ordinary, law-abiding citizens and businesses”being incorrectly flagged as suspects

“Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists”OCT 2008


In 2009, the DOJ revealed that nearly 24,000 individuals had been incorrectly listed on a terrorist watch list—and admitted that the errors caused harm to those individuals and posed risks to national security

Eric Lichtblau, Justice Dept. Finds Flaws in F.B.I. Terror List, N.Y. TIMES, May 6, 2009


Commercial databases. A majority of state and local intelligence fusion centers subscribe to services from consumer database vendors such as LexisNexis, Lexis’s Accurint, and ChoicePoint

ChoicePoint has multi-million dollar contracts with law enforcement agencies


February 2005, ChoicePoint announced that the company sold personal information on at least 145,000 Americans to a criminal ring engaged in identity theft. Criminals used the data to make unauthorized address changes on at least 750 people and Up to 400,000 people nationwide may have been compromised.


Choicepoint’s public information reports have a very high error rate.

In her sample, 90% of the reports obtained contained errors; frequently these errors were serious, such as individuals being identified by the wrong sex.

-Pam Dixon, World Privacy Report

Data Mining or Data Monitoring called Dataveillance by some
may be the least exciting of the techniques used to watch over us but it has the potential to be the most damaging of all.

The potential for harm is a real.

Investigations, whether you are aware of them or not still carries the same sort of risks as any other investigations performed by law enforcement as well as a host of hidden repercussions.


  • Inaccurate info or mistakes leading to prosecution or punishment.
  • Discovery of legal but embarrassing personal details that could do damage to the individual’s reputation, career, relationships etc.
  • Identity theft
  • Discovery of wrongdoing in ones past or present unrelated to purpose of the original investigation which allows this type of surveillance not based on “probable cause” to serve as a dragnet.
  • Being flagged on a watch list which may result in discriminatory treatment
  • Improper sharing or selling of information by government , corrupt employees, or private corporations that could cause you to be turned away for a job, have your insurance premiums raised or any number of undiscoverable forms of discrimination.

Whatever information is being gathered on us, we have no way of knowing about it, much less knowing if it is accurate

Kaye Beach 1/3/10


One response to “Fusion centers and Data Collection

  1. Very nice compilation here. Very encouraging. Be sure to check out One Mainframe to Rule Them All, available for free on YouTube.com.

    It runs in 10 minute segments for about 50 minutes in entirety ,but it gives an international and regional slant on data surveillance.

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