Tag Archives: Dragnet

Massachusetts DMV Facial Recognition FAIL-lawsuit to follow

                                                                                                                                            Kaye Beach

July 24, 2011

This gentleman driver got a shock when he was informed that he must cease driving because his license had been revoked.

The Massachusetts DMV (like most state DMV’s) is collecting the facial biometrics of every driver and then using that data to enter each unwitting person into a digital line up that pits their puss against the mugs of fraudsters.

Remember the quaint notion of “presumption of innocence”?

Mr Gass  unfortunately got  fingered  as a bad guy by the less than flawless technology.  Now he is suing for his trouble.

From Boston.com

July 17, 2011

Caught in a dragnet

A fraud prevention system erroneously revoked his license, and now he’s suing for his hardship

read more

Okie Pundit’s Vantage Point-In the Dark About ALPR

Okie Pundit thinks the traffic cam controversy is lame;

Last month the blogosphere, led by Mike McCarville, erupted over the proposal to use traffic cameras to detect uninsured drivers.

From our vantage point, this is much ado about nothing.

Mr. O. Pundit, your “vantage point” is limiting your vision terribly. It makes me to wonder where exactly your head is. Try removing it from the darkness first and take another look.

Okie Pundit says;

The proposed cameras are to be on public roads, where privacy rights are limited or nonexistent. This reminds us of the liberal furor over the Patriot Act allowing the government to monitor the books people checked out of the public library.

Who is “us”? Is the writer a conglomerate or is the article written by consensus?


Was it only the liberals who took offense to having their reading materials monitored for signs that they might be inclined to be a terrorist? I don’t remember it that way.

Do you think that because it’s a public library then no one has a right to complain? I guess the recent web cam spying incident in Pennsylvania where kids were being photographed in their own bedrooms surreptitiously by school officials should not irritate anyone then. After all, the laptops were issued to students by a public school.

A brief description of that issue in case you missed it;

Blake Robbins’ father, Michael, verified from Assistant Principal Lindy Matsko that the school district did in fact have the capability of remotely activating the cameras embedded in the district-issued laptop computer wherever the computer may be situated and regardless of whether the student is using it, and that the school district could at any time choose “to view and capture whatever images were in front of the webcam, all without the knowledge, permission or authorization of any persons then and there using the laptop computer.”

By the way, it is not just public libraries that have to give over records upon demand. It is also bookstores. As a matter of fact, any business, public or private can be forced to turn over any records including your medical and financial without any particularized suspicion under the PATRIOT ACT. We will never know how many have had to do so because the PATRIOT ACT also allows the owners or workers forced to give up this information to be gagged.

But back to the issue at hand, the limits of privacy in the public sphere.

Of course privacy is always limited when we choose to venture out into public. This is because we are viewable. Anyone can look at us and we can be photographed without permission.

But this issue is not about being viewed. It is about being tracked, recorded and monitored and about the information being shared or retained. The proposal to put up a number of ALPR cameras in fixed locations is more like being stalked than simply viewed.

And we are not talking about criminal suspects here, but ordinary people going about their business.

The ALPR systems can and are being utilized for a wide variety of purposes far beyond a simple insurance verification check.

ELSAG, a very popular vendor of ALPR advertises;

ALPR data is a crucial intelligence asset for use in threat mitigation, crime prevention and criminal case resolution for public safety, law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. The COPLINK® software organizes and rapidly analyzes vast quantities of structured and seemingly unrelated data http://www.scribd.com/doc/23225353/ELSAG-IACP-COPLINK-Automatic-License-Plate-Recognition

Okie Pundit continues with his argument for the devices;

The cameras are being used to enforce the law, a law which protects responsible drivers who currently bear the burden of higher premiums because of those choosing to drive without insurance. Not to mention that one would presume illegal immigrants are disproportionately uninsured and this will be another avenue to detect those here illegally.

Law Enforcement Officers are supposed to enforce the law not a machine. This is essentially outsourcing of law enforcement. Guess what happens when you confuse the dispensing of justice with the profiteering by dispensing of tickets? It encourages corruption, plain and simple.

A good example of this is the rash of yellow light shortening perpetrated by profit seeking red light corporations.






Do you think a private company who profits off of ticketing us (30%) is going to be a fair arbiter? If we want to contest one of these tickets, we would take our complaint before an employee of the corporation-NOT a sworn officer of any sort.

Oklahoma’s RFP reveals that;

The winning company would install, test, maintain and operate the cameras. It would mail tickets to vehicle owners. It would run a toll-free hotline and conduct hearings where motorists would contest camera tickets before a camera company employee instead of a judge

Traffic Technology Today

Privatization is a good thing in some instances. This is not one of them.

Also, these are not simply cameras.

The camera is one aspect of the system and probably the most benign portion at that. It is the database that makes ALPR (Automatic License Plate Recognition) what it is.

How do the ALPR cameras know if you are uninsured or not? It checks your plate against a database. This is how the cameras can also check and see if your plate is listed on any “hotlists” A hotlist could be created for stolen cars, criminal suspects or any other group you can think of from tot stealers to Tea Partiers. Running plates against hotlists is akin to being randomly thrown into a lineup, albeit a virtual one, it still carries the same risks as a real line up and should not be done absent probable cause. This is a dragnet and it is unconstitutional.

And for all the fear about being monitored by the government, there is far too much traffic and activity to notice anything other than outrageous behavior in real time.

That would be true if the cameras were monitored by human beings. That is not how it works hence the name AUTOMATIC License Plate Recognition. Advances in computing capability allows for rapid, massive data processing, matching and storage. Algorithms search, sort and identify almost instantaneously. There is no limit to the processing powers of modern computers as there will always be with human beings.

This is one of the new aspects of surveillance that many fail to take into consideration. Catch up.

The “Borg” Pundit says;

However, the feeds from these cameras would be a useful resource in the event of terrorist attacks or violent crimes.

We no longer wait until an actual crime has been committed to react. That is the way of the “old paradigm”

You may be unaware that we are doing things a little differently these days. A lot of people are, but since you speak as if from some authority, you should know the facts.

Since 9 11, the US government has adopted the idea that by collecting, collating and sharing massive amounts information crime and terrorism can be prevented. This strategy is derived directly from a school of thought on policing known as Intelligence Led Policing. This is the same new, driving philosophy for policing that made
fusion centers possible.

Intelligence Led Policing is a philosophy of law enforcement and policing imported from the UK and is often referred to the “New Paradigm” of policing.

The best way to get a grasp on the new paradigm is to recall what the old paradigm was;

OLD Paradigm:

The old paradigm was based upon the belief that individuals have an unalienable right to life, liberty, and property granted us by our Creator.

Americans have a justified expectation that the government instituted to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness will always afford due respect for the autonomy and privacy of law abiding individuals.

In America we are accustomed to a system of law that operates with the presumption of innocence as a cornerstone for the purpose of promoting justice. Those who offer the argument that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing fear” are missing the boat. It doesn’t work that way any longer.

The New Paradigm requires collecting and analyzing massive amounts of data, not limited to criminals or suspects but about all us. It is preemptive rather than reactive. The New Paradigm wants our police forces to be part of the ever expanding intelligence apparatus.

According to Michael Chertoff;

Former Secretary of the Dept. of Homeland Security Chertoff hits on another important point. ALPR is only one out of many sensors being used to collect data on us. Your phone, RFID tags, CCTV’s, even your new “smart meter” serve to collect information about each of us and this information is shared and aggregated in order to give the government a more complete picture of our lives. Data is examined algorithmically to try and reveal patterns that might indicate some hostile intent on our part.

Finally, there are already a number of cameras that view us in public: turnpike cameras to catch toll violators, traffic cameras to monitor road conditions, the view from the local news station, John Angier in the back corner at political events, dashboard cams on police cars, security feeds at businesses and government facilities. Whatever privacy one is expecting in public is long since gone.

And this statement illustrates the same deeply flawed logic that assures that we will eventually lose what Justice Louis Brandeis spoke so eloquently about;

“The makers of the Constitution: conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone –the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.”

–Justice Louis Brandeis

As a matter of fact, the false belief of the inevitability of these technological intrusions and the apathy that results from that belief is what the security and technology industry is banking on.

This is a portion of a slide taken from Fleishman-Hillard’s strategic presentation given to the Auto-ID industry to help them to overcome the pub lic’s antipathy toward RFID tagging.

They did their research and found that;

Initial response to the ‘base technology’ is neutral

Benefits are seen as for business only after consideration are negatives seen

• Consumer benefits seen as negligible No balancing the negatives with positives

• Consumers feel they have no personal choice

Virtually all groups spontaneously said that the ‘chip should be able to be killed'(their language).

The industry began working todevelop best messages to pacify”

The researchers acknowledged that the problem was that the RFID technology when used on an intimate level as with individual product tagging or ID cards, the consumers recognized that there was little if any benefits for them but a huge potential for the technology to be used in an intrusive manner.

From their studies they learned that with Americans the key to overcoming resistance was to push the notion that the technology was inevitable which provoked apathy.

Congratulations. You are bearing witness to the genius of the social manipulators.

You are reacting just as they predicted the typical American would.

Surveillance Shocker: Sprint Received 8 MILLION Law Enforcement Requests for GPS Location Data in the Past Year

December 1st, 2009

News Update by Kevin Bankston

This October, Chris Soghoian — computer security researcher, oft-times journalist, and current technical consultant for the FTC’s privacy protection office — attended a closed-door conference called “ISS World”. ISS World — the “ISS” is for “Intelligence Support Systems for Lawful Interception, Criminal Investigations and Intelligence Gathering” — is where law enforcement and intelligence agencies consult with telco representatives and surveillance equipment manufacturers about the state of electronic surveillance technology and practice. Armed with a tape recorder, Soghoian went to the conference looking for information about the scope of the government’s surveillance practices in the US. What Soghoian uncovered, as he reported on his blog this morning, is more shocking and frightening than anyone could have ever expected

At the ISS conference, Soghoian taped astonishing comments by Paul Taylor, Sprint/Nextel’s Manager of Electronic Surveillance. In complaining about the volume of requests that Sprint receives from law enforcement, Taylor noted a shocking number of requests that Sprint had received in the past year for precise GPS (Global Positioning System) location data revealing the location and movements of Sprint’s customers. That number?


Sprint received over 8 million requests for its customers’ information in the past 13 months. That doesn’t count requests for basic identification and billing information, or wiretapping requests, or requests to monitor who is calling who, or even requests for less-precise location data based on which cell phone towers a cell phone was in contact with. That’s just GPS. And, that’s not including legal requests from civil litigants, or from foreign intelligence investigators. That’s just law enforcement. And, that’s not counting the few other major cell phone carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile. That’s just Sprint.

Here’s what Taylor had to say; the audio clip is here and we are also mirroring a zip file from Soghoian containing other related mp3 recordings and documents.

[M]y major concern is the volume of requests. We have a lot of things that are automated but that’s just scratching the surface. One of the things, like with our GPS tool. We turned it on the web interface for law enforcement about one year ago last month, and we just passed 8 million requests. So there is no way on earth my team could have handled 8 million requests from law enforcement, just for GPS alone. So the tool has just really caught on fire with law enforcement. They also love that it is extremely inexpensive to operate and easy, so, just the sheer volume of requests they anticipate us automating other features, and I just don’t know how we’ll handle the millions and millions of requests that are going to come in.

Eight million would have been a shocking number even if it had included every single legal request to every single carrier for every single type of customer information; that Sprint alone received eight million requests just from law enforcement only for GPS data is absolutely mind-boggling. We have long warned that cell phone tracking poses a threat to locational privacy, and EFF has been fighting in the courts for years to ensure that the government only tracks a cell phone’s location when it has a search warrant based on probable cause. EFF has also complained before that a dangerous level of secrecy surrounds law enforcement’s communications surveillance practices like a dense fog, and that without stronger laws requiring detailed reporting about how the government is using its surveillance powers, the lack of accountability when it comes to the government’s access to information through third-party phone and Internet service providers will necessarily breed abuse. But we never expected such huge numbers to be lurking in that fog.

Now that the fact is out that law enforcement is rooting through such vast amounts of location data, it raises profoundly important questions that law enforcement and the telcos must answer:

  • How many innocent Americans have had their cell phone data handed over to law enforcement?
  • How can the government justify obtaining so much information on so many people, and how can the telcos justify handing it over?
  • How did the number get so large? Is the government doing massive dragnet sweeps to identify every single cell phone that was in a particular area at a particular time? Is the government getting location information for entire “communities of interest” by asking not only for their target’s location, but also for the location of every person who talked to the target, and every person who talked to them?
  • Does the number only include requests to track phones in real-time, or does it include requests for historical GPS data, and if so, why did the telcos have that incredibly sensitive data sitting around in the first place? Exactly when and how are they logging their users’ GPS data, and how long are they keeping that data?
  • What legal process was used to obtain this information? Search warrants? Other court orders? Mere subpoenas issued by prosecutors without any court involvement? How many times was this information handed over without any legal process at all, based on government claims of an urgent emergency situation?
  • Looking beyond Sprint and GPS, how many Americans have had their private communications data handed over to law enforcement by their phone and Internet service providers?
  • What exactly has the government done with all of that information? Is it all sitting in an FBI database somewhere?
  • Do you really think that this Orwellian level of surveillance is consistent with a free society and American values? Really?

These questions urgently need to be asked — by journalists, and civil liberties groups like EFF, and by every cell phone user and citizen concerned about privacy. Most importantly, though, they must be asked by Congress, which has failed in its duty to provide oversight and accountability when it comes to law enforcement surveillance. Congress should hold hearings as soon as possible to demand answers from the government and the telcos under oath, and clear the fog so that the American people will finally have an accurate picture of just how far the government has reached into the private particulars of their digital lives.

Even without hearings, though, the need for Congress to update the law is clear. At the very least, Congress absolutely must stem the government’s abuse of its power by:

  • Requiring detailed reporting about law enforcement’s access to communications data using the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), just as it already requires for law enforcement wiretapping under the Wiretap Act, and make sure that the government actually fulfills its obligations rather than ignore the law for years on end.
  • Requiring that the government “minimize” the communications data it collects under ECPA rather than keep it all forever, just like it is supposed to do with wiretaps.
  • Prohibiting the government from using in a criminal trial any electronic communications content or data that it obtains in violation of ECPA, just as the government is prohibited by the Wiretap Act from using illegally acquired telephone intercepts.
  • Clarifying that ECPA can only be used to get specific data about particular individuals and cannot be used for broad sweeps, whether to identify everyone in a particular geographic area or to identify every person that visits a particular web site.

It’s time for Congress to pull the curtain back on the vast, shadowy world of law enforcement surveillance and shine a light on these abuses. In the meantime, we give our thanks to those like Chris Soghoian who are doing important work to uncover the truth about government spying in America.

UPDATE: Sprint has responded to Soghoian’s report:

The comments made by a Sprint corporate security officer during a recent conference have been taken out of context by this blogger. Specifically, the “8 million” figure, which the blogger highlights in his email and blog post, has been grossly misrepresented. The figure does not represent the number of customers whose location information was provided to law enforcement, as this blogger suggests.

Instead, the figure represents the number of individual “pings” for specific location information, made to the Sprint network as part of a series of law enforcement investigations and public safety assistance requests during the past year. It’s critical to note that a single case or investigation may generate thousands of individual pings to the network as the law enforcement or public safety agency attempts to track or locate an individual.

Instances where law enforcement agencies seek customer location information include exigent or emergency circumstances such as Amber Alert events, criminal investigations, or cases where a Sprint customer consents to sharing location information.

Sprint takes our customers’ privacy extremely seriously and all law enforcement and public safety requests for customer location information are processed in accordance with applicable state and federal laws.

This response provides some important answers, while raising even more questions. First off, Sprint has confirmed that it received 8 million requests, while denying a charge that no one has made: that 8 million individual customers’ data was handed over. Sprint’s denial also begs the question: how many individual customers have been affected?

As for Sprint’s claim that in some instances a single case or investigation may generate thousands of location “pings”, that is certainly possible, but that doesn’t make the 8 million number any less of a concern, or moot any of the important questions raised by Soghoian in his report or by EFF in its post regarding the lack of effective oversight and transparency in this area.

Even assuming that Sprint’s statement about “pings” is true, 8 million — or, in other words, 8,000 thousands — is still an astronomical number and more than enough to raise serious concerns that Congress should investigate and address. Moreover, the statement raises additional questions: exactly what legal process is being used to authorize the multiple-ping surveillance over time that Sprint is cooperating in? Is Sprint demanding search warrants in those cases? How secure is this automated interface that law enforcement is using to “ping” for GPS data? How does Sprint insure that only law enforcement has access to that data, and only when they have appropriate legal process? How many times has Sprint disclosed information in “exigent or emergency circumstances” without any legal process at all? And most worrisome and intriguing: what customers does Sprint think have “consent[ed] to the sharing [of] location data” with the government? Does Sprint think it is free to hand over the information of anyone who has turned on their GPS functionality and shared information with Sprint for location-based services? Or even the data of anyone who has agreed to their terms of service? What exactly are they talking about?

These questions are only the beginning, and Sprint’s statement doesn’t come close to answering all of them. Of course, we appreciate that Sprint has begun a public dialogue about this issue. But this should be only the beginning of that discussion, not the end. Ultimately, the need for Congress to investigate the true scope of law enforcement’s communications surveillance practices remains. Congress can and should dig deeper to get the hard facts for the American people, rather than forcing us to rely solely on Sprint’s public relations office for information on these critical privacy issues.

Related Issues: Cell TrackingLocational Privacy


Automatic License Plate Recognition ALPR/ANPR


First-What is ANPR?

Automatic number plate recognition or ANPR is a mass surveillance method that uses optical character recognition on images to read the license plates on vehicles. As of 2006, systems can scan number plates at around one per second on cars traveling up to 100 mph (160 km/h). They can use existing closed-circuit television or road-rule enforcement cameras, or ones specifically designed for the task. They are used by various police forces and as a method of electronic toll collection on pay-per-use roads, and monitoring traffic activity such as red light adherence in an intersection.

In addition to the real-time processing of license plate numbers, some ALPR systems in the US collect data at the time of each license plate capture. Data such as date and time stamps and GPS coordinates can be reviewed in relation to investigations and can help lead to critical breaks such as placing a suspect at a scene, witness identification, pattern recognition or the tracking of suspect individualsanpr_exampleCharge zones – the London congestion charge

The London congestion charge is an example of a system that charges motorists entering a payment area. Transport for London (TfL) uses ANPR systems and charges motorists a daily fee of £8 paid before 10pm if they enter, leave or move around within the congestion charge zone between 7 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., Monday to Friday. Fines for travelling within the zone without paying the charge are £50 per infraction if paid before the deadline, doubling to £100 per infraction thereafter.

There are currently 1,500 cameras, which use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology in use. There are also a number of mobile camera units which may be deployed anywhere in the zone.Wikipedia

More info;


Automatic number plate recognition Opinion: Unreasonable Search and Seizure
A commentary by Richard Diamond on the alarming rise of automobile confiscation in America.

Just days after the Supreme Court ruled that cities could take homes from private owners to build strip malls, the US House of Representatives issued a non-binding condemnation of the court’s decision. While the publicity firestorm could eventually result in stronger laws against public seizure of private property, state governments are happy to continue confiscating automobiles like property rights never existed.

The number of excuses given for government automobile seizures is expanding dramatically. Since 1991, the Commonwealth of Virginia has permanently seized 6,450 automobiles for crimes ranging from drug-running to “frequenting a bawdy place.” Now other jurisdictions are deploying new technologies to seize cars for the most minor offenses imaginable. The case of New Haven, Connecticut resident Kathy Martone illustrates this appalling erosion of property rights.

Earlier this year, when Martone left her house to walk her dog, she discovered that her Plymouth Neon had been grabbed right out of her driveway. The culprit: The City of New Haven. Using a handheld camera with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, a marshal identified her car as a vehicle with $85 in unpaid parking tickets. Like 1,800 other individuals, Martone’s car was seized by the city and held for ransom (original fine plus recovery costs).

The ANPR technology that helped New Haven police nab Martone’s car was originally developed to locate stolen vehicles. Last year, in a large-scale ANPR test, UK police officers snapped 28 million digital photos, stopped 180,000 individuals for questioning and recovered some 1,100 stolen vehicles. They also discovered a new purpose for their cameras: revenue generation. Police used the system to issue 51,000 tickets to drivers for offenses ranging from speeding, to drinking from a water bottle, to talking on a mobile phone. Ecstatic UK officials now plan to equip every police force in the country with ANPR.

When Arlington, Virginia Treasurer Frank O’Leary learned of the technology, he too was ecstatic. “I rub my hands together in great glee and anticipation,” he said in a television interview. “I think it’s beautiful. It gives us a whole new dimension to collection.” Currently, Arlington’s Bootfinder targets anyone owing $120 to the city for any reason — even overdue library books. It has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in “new” revenue. New Haven’s setup likewise pulled in a cool million in just the first six months of operation.

Predictably enough, that kind of cash has drawn a lot of attention from cities across the country. Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Diego and Tampa have all tested similar systems. Although each considers the ANPR test a “success”, none care that city databases contain a built-in margin of error. For example, the city of Annapolis, Maryland recently accused 2,000 residents of not paying their parking fines — even though they had done so. The city quickly compounded the error by sending another round of delinquency notices to 5,000 innocent residents.

Before ANPR-facilitated seizure was deemed acceptable, a screwed-up parking ticket database was a minor hassle. Now it’s a Constitutional nightmare, mocking fundamental and cherished legal protections: the right to be presumed innocent, the right to a trial by jury, the right not to have excessive fines imposed, the right not to be searched or have your property seized without reason or warrant, and the right to due process.

States conducting automotive seizure rely on a doctrine found in a 1931 Supreme Court ruling stating “It is the property which is preceded against, and, by resort to a legal fiction, held guilty and condemned as though it were conscious instead of inanimate and insentient.” In other words, it’s OK to confiscate your car because you forgot to pay an $85 parking ticket; you didn’t commit the crime, your car did. In 1980, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed the concept, convicting a 1976 Mercedes Benz 280S of drug-running. The Bill of Rights, the court argued, applies to people not to cars.

Albuquerque, New Mexico agrees. It’s the first jurisdiction to combine a seizure ordinance with a red light camera. If your car — no matter who was driving — blows through two red lights, they’ll take it for thirty days. The more cities follow suit, adopting get-rich-quick red light and speed camera schemes, the more likely you are to lose your wheels. If you forget to file a change of address form with the city, or the post offices loses your ticket in the mail, the first time you realize you’ve committed a “crime” will be when your car disappears.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on home seizures is a wakeup call to every American. While the issue is hot, contact your state legislator and demand repeal of automobile seizure laws as well. Otherwise, the state will soon become the number one practitioner of grand theft auto, with your car constantly in its sights.

This commentary originally appeared on The Truth About Cars

Fusion Centers EPIC Tells More than You Ever Wanted to Know

EPIC  Background

”Fusion centers” are a means of bringing together information from distributed sources for the purpose of collection, retention, analysis, and dissemination. The term “fusion center,” seems to have originated from the Department of Defense (DOD,) and refers to the fusing of information for analysis purposes. On November 9, 2002, the New York Times disclosed a massive DOD fusion center project managed by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) known as Total Information Awareness (TIA). DARPA was developing a tracking system intended to attempt to detect terrorists through analyzing troves of information.

The project called for the development of ”revolutionary technology for ultra-large all-source information repositories,” which would contain information from multiple sources to create a ”virtual, centralized, grand database.” This database would be populated by transaction data contained in current databases such as financial records, medical records, communication records, and travel records as well as new sources of information. Also fed into the database would be intelligence data.

A key component of the TIA project was headed by Admiral John Poindexter, former National Security Advisor to President Reagan. TIA was to develop data-mining or knowledge discovery tools that would sort through the massive amounts of information to find patterns and associations. TIA would also develop search tools such as Project Genoa, which Admiral Poindexter’s employer, prior to his return to the federal government, Syntek Technologies assisted in developing. TIA aimed to fund the development of more such tools and data-mining technology to help analysts understand and even ”preempt” future action.

A further crucial component was the development of biometric technology to enable the identification and tracking of individuals. DARPA had already funded its ”Human ID at a Distance” program, which aimed to positively identify people from a distance through technologies such as face recognition or gait recognition.

In August 2002, the International Association of Chiefs of Police released the recommendations of its Criminal Intelligence Summit held March 7-8, 2002, with the final document coming from the DOJ’s office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The report acknowledged that the problems identified following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were found to be with “intelligence exchange between national agencies…” Then the report quickly endorsed the creation of a Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council to implement the National Intelligence Plan that would engage local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies in a database sharing environment. The plan addressed the legal impediments to the effective transfer of criminal intelligence between authorized local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. This plan became the superstructure for the next domestic Fusion Center effort by advocating for the creation of the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council and charged it with accomplishing a number of goals:

”Ensure compatible policy standards, guidelines and operating procedures in the further development and integration of existing intelligence sharing systems (including standards for the collection, analysis, dissemination, storage and purging of information); create standards for participation in the Council and coordinated intelligence network; promulgate standards and guidelines; publicize and enforce sanctions for the misuse of information from the coordinated network… Create a funding plan …eliminate barriers in…laws and polices that limit intelligence sharing…”

The Criminal Intelligence Summit participants stressed the need to not limit the data sharing to terrorism or terrorist related activity, but to extend it to all criminal intelligence under the general heading of “Intelligence-Led Policing.” Criminal intelligence was defined as ”the combination of credible information with quality analysis–information that has been evaluated and from which conclusions have been drawn.” The report supported the expanding of the information’s sharing database effort to be extended to court records, emergency management personnel, and “specialized security forces of particular situation-relevant intelligence.”

The plan to overcome barriers to intelligence sharing included the following:

“The “hierarchy” within the law enforcement and intelligence communities. In some cases real and in others only perceived, the hierarchical organization of law enforcement and intelligence agencies (with federal agencies being at the “top” of the pyramid and local, state, county, and Tribal agencies further down) leads to organizational incentives against intelligence sharing and even anti-sharing cultures. At best, the disaggregation of activity means that managers in one agency might not imagine that others would find their intelligence data useful. At worst, the structure creates an “us” versus “them” mentality that stands in the way of productive collaboration.”

A key goal of the proposal establishes the need to “[c]reate a marketing strategy to increase stakeholder participation in the intelligence sharing process and conduct public education to promote acceptance of the system overall.”

In September 2003, Congress eliminated funding for the controversial TIA project and closed the Pentagon’s Information Awareness Office, which had developed TIA. It was not believed to signal the end of other government data-mining initiatives that are similar to TIA. Projects such as the Novel Intelligence from Massive Data within the Intelligence Community Advanced Research and Development Activity (ARDA) moved forward. The FBI and the Transportation Security Administration were also working on data-mining projects that fused commercial databases, public databases, and intelligence data and had meetings with TIA developers.

In October 2003, the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan was published by the Justice Department‘s project the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (“Global”). The report states that 75% of the law enforcement agencies within the United States have less than 24 sworn officers. The report’s goal is to provide these small law enforcement agencies with the same ability as big city, state, and federal law enforcement offices to develop, gather, access, receive, and share intelligence information.

”The need to increase availability of information, from classified systems to local and state law enforcement agencies, for the prevention and investigation of crime in their jurisdictions…The need to identify an intelligence information sharing capability that can be widely accessed by local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement and public safety agencies.”

The proposal recommended the establishment of a Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council (CICC or Council) composed of local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement executives.The Council was recommended to operate under the direction of the Global Advisory Committee and would be charged with monitoring the implementation of the National Intelligence Sharing Plan. A few members of the Global Advisory Committee include: Administrative Office of the US Courts, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, American Corrections Association, American Probation and Parole Association, Conference of State Court Administrators, Executive Offices for US Attorneys, FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, International Association of Chiefs of Police, INTERPOL – USNCB, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, National District Attorneys Association, National Governors Association, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice — Justice Management Division, and the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

The report also moved the goal to not just involve law enforcement, the courts, and emergency management databases, but to extend its reach to private entities.

During this same period of time, another fusion center initiative came under public scrutiny in the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan as a data warehouse–the Multi-state Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (MATRIX) project which acted as a prototype database system run by the State of Florida and Seisint, a private company. Built by a consortium of state law enforcement agencies, MATRIX proposed to combine public records and private record data from multiple databases with data analysis tools. MATRIX was established with the assistance of the Institute for Intergovernmental Research’s Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative. The program collapsed when it was disclosed to the public, and states were pressured by residents to withdraw from the program.

In March 2004, the MATRIX project was on its last gasp, when the states of New York and Wisconsin withdrew their participation in the project. By May 14, 2004, the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council proposed by the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan became an official project of the Department of Justice.

Latest Government Information Fusion Center Initiative

May 2004, the Department of Justice announced its progress in implementing the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan. The announcement made public the decision to create a Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council (CICC) that would be managed by Global. By December 2004, the push for a national Fusion Center initiative received a boost when the Department of Justice sponsored Global Infrastructure/Standards Working Group published A Framework for Justice Information Sharing: Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). States using local, state, and federal funds created information Fusion Centers. In August 2005, Global published the Fusion Center Guidelines

“The principal role of the fusion center 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).”

A Congressional Research Service Report on Fusion Centers outlined several fundamental problems with the Guidance on Fusion Center development: first, adherence is voluntary, second, the philosophy outlined is generic and does not translate theory into practice, and third, they are oriented toward the mechanics of Fusion Center establishment. The majority of regional Fusion Centers are concentrated in large urban areas. The jurisdiction of these centers are also covered by state Fusion Centers, but there is a question regarding how overlapping jurisdictions are managed.

The CRS Report on Fusion Centers also point out that there is no single legal authority that govern the operation of Fusion Centers.

The Department of Homeland Security set out an objective to create by 2008 a network of fusions centers as a unique law enforcement and threat information resource that could facilitate “across jurisdictions and functions” supported by “multidisciplinary teams” dispersed throughout a national network of information hives.

Turning Fusion Centers into Hardware and Software

The Global Infrastructure/Standards Working Group’s report A Framework for Justice Information Sharing: Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), stated:

”The purpose of this report is to describe the recommendation of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative (Global) Advisory Committee (GAC) for the operational requirements of justice agencies and the requirements for a national community.”

In August 2005 Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative and Department of Homeland Security, Fusion Center Guidelines were published. The guidelines stated the software of the choice as being Extensible Markup Language (XML) , which facilitates efficient and near real time sharing of information resident on geographically dispersed databases. The initiative promotes the data sharing among law enforcement though the use of a common platform that can be used on existing hardware. The goal is to achieve a low cost method of removing barriers to data sharing among beat officers, court records, state records, jails and prisons, that is efficient and effective.

The Fusion Center Guidelines endorses the use of the new database sharing capability created by the open source XML standards. This open standards programming language provides users with a data sharing capability that would not require the replacement or redesign of existing system. This programming language allows the identification of fields of information through the use of a translation feature that accomplishes its task between the system being asked for information, and the end requester. In this process the source of the data and the recipient do not need to change their system to participate in the information exchange network.

The interesting aspects of the proposal are the promotion of a national collection and analysis of information. The “National Information Exchange Model” proposed for the fusion centers is designed to create the building blocks for “national-level interoperable information sharing and data exchange that will integrate the public safety and private sector entities to the already established law enforcement exchange.”

Exchanging information is only the beginning of the process, the goal is “institutionalizing the relationships between the fusion center and the public safety and private sector partners.” The Global recommendations make the case for distributed and centralized data management systems. Saying that distributed systems will allow the data controller to be in charge of access, while the centralized process would allow the fusion center to manage the data. A white paper examining strategies for enhancing the sharing of information pointed out that successful distributed and centralized information-sharing systems are in operation today. The goal is to get local, state, federal law enforcement, and government agencies, and private sector data warehouses into the same project.

In September 14, 2006 the Department of Homeland Security reported that 38 state and local Information Fusion Centers supported by $380 million in federal dollars were operational. The investment in time, energy, and resources are focused on one objective maximizing access to the greatest amount of information as possible.

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.

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

(Source Fusion Center Guidelines: Appendix C)

The proposal directs that information categories could fall into one of two types: strategic and tactical information. Strategic information may provide data on individuals not under criminal investigation or operations that an entity manages, and tactical information may provide data be in support of ongoing criminal investigations. It would be very difficult to imagine someone living within the United States who would not have one or multiple points of information confluence in the proposed system. The Fusion Center guidance said the following about the “Fusion Center Functions”

” The principal role of the fusion center 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).”

The Fusion Center Guidelines repeatedly stress the importance of collaboration and cooperation, to the success of the center. The focus of the work of fusion centers will not be limited to terrorism or terrorist activity, but will according to the appendices of the Fusion Center Guidelines extend to among other things the investigation of persons on public assistance, illicit drugs, traffic accidents, and aviation accident analysis.

The range of information to be collected by service providers who participate in the fusion center effort could include: all sources of financial records kept by banking institutions; all contacts with the criminal justice system by criminals and non-criminals, all forms of education (day cares, preschools, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and technical schools); government issued licenses and permits, access to medical records held by hospitals, public health, and primary care physicians, hospitality and lodging, information and telecommunication service providers, military facilities and defense industrial base; postal and shipping services, private security (alarm companies, armored car companies, investigative firms, corporate security offices); public works; social services; and transportation. The appendices of the Fusion Center Guidelines list the following as data collection targets:

Banking & Finance

Health & Education

Jails/Prisons/Court Records

Federal, State, Local Gov. (Permits Licenses)

Hospitality & Lodging

Credit Cards Co.
Credit Reports
Securities firms
Financial services
E-mail Providers
Cyber Security Co.
Day Care Centers
Technical Schools
Mental Health
Physician Patient Info
Local Hospitals
Private EMS
Gang Information.
Names of Associates
Jail/Prison Visitors
Biographical Info.
Traffic Accident
Tribal Law Enforcement
County Clerk
US Courts
Game and Fish
DMV Records
Vehicle Registrations
Civil Records
Property Appraiser
Civil Suits
Gaming Industry
Sports Authority
Sporting facilities
Amusement parks
Cruise lines
Hotels, motels, Resorts
Convention Centers

Along with a host of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, private companies also participated in the Public Safety Fusion Group, which included Walt Disney World Company, Fidelity Investments, Microsoft, and Archer Daniels Midland. The goal is to, within the fusion center environment, integrate “nontraditional customers of information and intelligence” with traditional customers of information analysis. Fusing of information based on an identified threat, criminal predicate, or public safety by the seamless collection, collating, blending, analyzing, disseminating, and use of information intelligence is the goal. The intelligence and analysis of information is proposed to be base on the needs of users, with the list of users including all levels and types of law enforcement, intelligence community, DOD, private sector entities it appears the official uses could be limitless.

The definition of “national intelligence” was changed by the enactment of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, bill to reform the intelligence community and the intelligence and intelligence-related activities of the United States Government.

” The terms ‘national intelligence’ and ‘intelligence related to national security’ refer to all intelligence, regardless of the source from which derived and including information gathered within or outside the United States…”

The new law also defines the “information sharing environment,” (ISE) as

” The President shall …ensure that the ISE provides and facilitates the means for sharing terrorism information among all appropriate Federal, State, local, and tribal entities, and the private sector through the use of policy guidelines and technologies. The President shall, to the greatest extent practicable, ensure that the ISE provides the functional equivalent of, or otherwise supports, a decentralized, distributed, and coordinated environment that…connects existing systems, where appropriate, provides no single points of failure, and allows users to share information among agencies, between levels of government, and, as appropriate, with the private sector…ensures direct and continuous online electronic access to information…facilitates the availability of information in a form and manner that facilitates its use in analysis, investigations and operations…builds upon existing systems capabilities currently in use across the Government;”

The focus of fusion centers is on information collection as a means of determining crime trends with an eye toward predicting crime before it occurs. The “four major desired outcomes” for fusion centers are: the reduction of the incident of crime; suppression of criminal activity; the regulation of noncriminal conduct; the provision of services.

In September 14, 2006 the Department of Homeland Security reported that 38 state and local Information Fusion Centers supported by $380 million in federal dollars were operational. The investment in time, energy, and resources are focused on one objective maximizing access to the greatest amount of information as possible. States with operational fusion Centers as of June 2007, (source State and Regional Intelligence Fusion Center Contact Information) include:

District of Columbia
New Jersey
New York
North Dakota
South Carolina
West Virginia

States in the process of developing information fusion centers include: Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.

On March 8, 2006 the following states did not have and were not in the process of developing fusion centers: Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Where is the funding Coming from to Support Fusion Centers

The Fusion Center Guidelines Chapter 14, is titled “Offer a variety of intelligence services and products to customers.” The output of the fusion center process is called “product,” and it is recommended that the work of the centers not be limited to “intelligence product dissemination.” The National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan states that, ”Criminal intelligence results from a process that begins with planning and direction, followed sequentially by: information collection, processing/collation, analysis, dissemination, and reevaluation (feedback) of information on suspected criminals and/or organizations”.

The Guidelines recommend that Fusion Centers “produce both strategic and tactical” information and suggest a list of services and products to produce:

Investigative and tactical response
Proactive strategic analysis
Intelligence support for investigations
Visual investigative analysis
Alerts and notifications
Target identification
Critical Infrastructure analysis
Training Opportunities
Geospatial Imaging
Criminal backgrounds and profiles
Case correlation
Crime-pattern Analysis
Association, link, and network analysis
Telephone-toll analysis
Financial analysis
Intelligence reports and briefings
Threat assessments
Terrorism calendar

The initial support for the program came from federal funding, but the Fusion Center Guidelines include advice on keeping the doors open once up and running. The Fusion Center Guidelines Chapter 17 recommends that centers leverage existing resources and funding from participants. One means suggested for accomplishing this is found in Chapter 5 of the Guidelines, which supports the use of ”Utilize Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs), or other types of agency agreements…”

MOUs are seen as a means of ensuring resource commitments from participants. The guidance also states the importance of identifying the return on investments made by Fusion Center partners.

Memorandum of Understanding are informal agreements that are not contracts. The MOU is a policy document, used to establish ground rules for a particular purpose, project, or effort. In the case of Fusion Centers an MOU is reached among participating entities. A representative of each participating organization must sign the agreement on the entities behalf. A series of internal directives may also be used to further refine the goals, purposes, and objectives of the Fusion Center.

Unlike MOUs NDAs do have a legal consequence if violated–these agreements are often associated with sensitive or proprietary information. The NDA offers a another level of protection for those who engage in the sharing of secret or protected information. In this context the guidelines specifically mentions the vulnerability of private sector participants who engage in the sharing of sensitive information. According to the Guidelines, “[T]he NDA provides private sector entities an additional layer of security, ensuring the security of private sector proprietary information and trade secrets.” One of the types of information sought that is not related to physical protection of facilities are customer and client lists.

In March 2007, in a speech given by John S. Pistole Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the National Fusion Center Conference held in Destin, Florida revealed that 200 FBI agents had been assigned to 33 Fusion Centers.

Justifying Fusion Center Development

The National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan released in October 2003 suggest that the events of September 11, 2001 were related to barriers that prevented information and intelligence sharing by local and state law enforcement agencies. This conclusion runs counter to the findings of the report by the National Commission on Terrorists Attacks released in July 2004. The Commission’s report recounted that by July 2001 the heightened number of threat advisories had reached a level not seen since the Millennium bomb plot of 1999, which was averted. The report’s Chapter 8: “The System was Blinking Red” stated that on July 2, the FBI issued a general threat advisory to local and state law enforcement agencies regarding the possibility of a terrorist attack, they were directed to “exercise extreme vigilance and report suspicious activities to the agency.” On July 5, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the FAA, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, Customs, the CIA, and FBI met with the White House on the threat situation and were told not to share with others the threat information they received.

In April 2004, it was reported to the 9-11 Commission that the CIA and the FBI still could not search each other’s terrorist databases. The barriers were a lack of interoperability among databases used by the two agencies.

Some point to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath as a motivation for Fusion Center development.

Where does Privacy and Civil Liberties Protection Fit?

A July 2007 CRS report on Fusion Centers stated that ”[c]urrently, the states legal authorities recognizing or establishing a fusion center range from nonexistent, to memorandum of agreements by the partnering agencies, and in one case a state statue, which defines the center and its responsibilities.” The Fusion Center development process has originate from existing local and state law enforcement agencies.

There are questions about the focus on privacy and civil liberties considerations within the development of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative and Department of Homeland Security, Fusion Center Guidelines. The guidelines were published in the summer of 2005, but the Global Privacy and Information Quality Working Group issued its final report a Privacy Policy Development Guide and Implementation Templates in October 2006. While the report lauded the importance of privacy protections from conception through implementation of a information sharing initiative it said this about building of a project team, “The project team should have access to subject-matter experts in areas of privacy law and technical systems design and operations, as well as skilled writers, but these individuals do not necessarily have to be team members.”

The 28 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 23 also known as (28 CFR Part 23) is cited in the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan as the rule that allegedly provide “privacy protection for data subjects. The regulation addresses the management of inter-, and multi jurisdictional criminal intelligence sharing systems operated by local and state law enforcement or on their behalf. For example on the issue of data accuracy source information can be “Reliable”, ” Usually Reliable”, or ” Unreliable”; while the content accuracy can be deemed to be ” Confirmed”, “Probable” or ” Doubtful.” Further, when local and state criminal data sharing entities are faced with the following question, “Can the names of individuals or organizations not reasonably suspected of involvement in criminal activity be included in a criminal intelligence database?” the answer is yes. Regarding when the system can be accessed the code is said to support unlimited reasons for use of the database adding that there is no need to have reasonable suspicion.

Federal rules regarding the accuracy of criminal databases does not fair better than the state guidance. In 2003, the FBI established a new rule exempting the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system from the accuracy requirements of the Privacy Act of 1974.The NCIC database provides over 80,000 law enforcement agencies with access to a computerized network of more than 39 million records regarding criminal activity. For the past thirty years, the FBI has operated the NCIC database with the Privacy Act accuracy requirement in place. The relevant provision requires that any agency that maintains a system of records, “maintain all records which are used by the agency in making any determination about any individual with such accuracy, relevance, timeliness, and completeness as is reasonably necessary to assure fairness to the individuals in the determination.” Circumventing that statutory obligation poses significant risks not only for individuals whose record files may be part of this data system, but also for communities that rely on law enforcement to employ effective, reliable tools for ensuring public safety.

In March 2002, the FBI set a new record for inquiries processed in one day, responding to 3,295,587 requests. On average, there are 2.8 million transaction processed each day, with an average response time of 0.16 seconds. As a result, any error in the NCIC database can spread across the country in less than a second.

Several well publicized incidents demonstrate the consequences of inaccurate and incomplete information in the NCIC. In one case, a Los Angeles man was arrested five times, three at gun point, due to an error in the NCIC [see Rogan v. Los Angeles, 668 F. Supp. 1384 (C.D. Cal. 1987)]. In this case an escaped prisoner assumed the identity of an innocent person and then committed a robbery and murder. In another instance of criminal database error, a Phoenix resident, who was pulled over for driving the wrong way down a one-way street, was arrested after an NCIC inquiry erroneously revealed an outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrant that had been quashed weeks earlier.

These incidents, and others like them, reveal the potential harms that individuals may face if the records in the NCIC database are not accurate. These incidents demonstrate that the FBI should work to improve the accuracy of this system of records, rather than administratively exempt itself of this important duty. Unfortunately, the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan does not endorse data accuracy.

The Privacy Act of 1974

The Privacy Act of 1974, Public Law 93-579 was established with the express purpose of guarding against these types of government database abuses by setting standards for the quality of data the government collects about individuals. It safeguards privacy through creating four procedural and substantive rights in personal data. First, it requires government agencies to show an individual any records kept on him or her. Second, it requires agencies to follow certain principles, called ”fair information practices,” when gathering and handling personal data. Third, it places restrictions on how agencies can share an individual’s data with other people and agencies. Fourth and finally, it lets individuals sue the government for violating its provisions.

In passing the Act, Congress found that “the opportunities for an individual to secure employment, insurance, and credit, and his rights to due process, and other legal protections are endangered by the misuse of certain information systems,” and therefore “it is necessary and proper for the Congress to regulate the collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of information by such agencies.” To that end, Congress passed the Act to ensure, among other things, that any information held by the government would be “current and accurate for its intended use.

The Privacy Act is a powerful tool for providing protection to people against government abuses when it is applied. Unfortunately, the Act allowed certain government agencies that are engaged in law enforcement the power to excuse themselves from the Act’s rules. Agencies have also circumvented information sharing rules by exploiting a ”routine use” exemption. It is unclear how the merging of law enforcement purposes with non-law enforcement purposes would play out, but what is clear is that legal challenges would create new areas for local, state, and federal courts to review the fusion center process.

The foundations of the Privacy Act are the elements of the Code of Fair Information Practices that are codified by that law. The Code of Fair Information Practices is cited three times in the Privacy Policy Development Guide and Implementation Templates drafted by the Global Privacy and Information Quality Working Group of the DOJ’s Global Justice Sharing Initiative. None of the citations enumerated the Code of Fair Information Practices or its history.

The Code for Fair Information Practices is the central contribution of the HEW (Health, Education, Welfare) Advisory Committee on Automated Data Systems. The Advisory Committee was established in 1972, and the report released in July. The citation for the report is as follows:

U.S. Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare, Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Automated Personal Data Systems, Records, computers, and the Rights of Citizens viii (1973).The Code of Fair Information Practices is based on five principles:
1. There must be no personal data record-keeping systems whose very existence is secret.
2. There must be a way for a person to find out what information about the person is in a record and how it is used.
3. There must be a way for a person to prevent information about the person that was obtained for one purpose from being used or made available for other purposes without the person’s consent.
4. There must be a way for a person to correct or amend a record of identifiable information about the person.
5. Any organization creating, maintaining, using, or disseminating records of identifiable personal data must assure the reliability of the data for their intended use and must take precautions to prevent misuses of the data.

In the context of fusion centers no one knows the rules that will bring someone under scrutiny and what the consequences of that scrutiny might be.

  • December 2006, an article on the Salt Lake City Police Department’s fusion center efforts described it as “a way of tracking information that comes in from community groups like community councils and neighborhood watch, as well as the mayor’s office. (Source: Deseret Morning News, Police idle Community Action Team, December 19, 2006)
  • January 2007, an article cites the Sacramento-based intelligence fusion center for indictments filed against California Healthcare Collective for illegal marijuana farming. (Source: Fresno Bee, Valley drug-fighters honored, January 18, 2007)

• March of 2007, the Governor of California supported the creation of a “Baca countywide Gang Assessment Center,” he referred to as a fusion center. (Source: Whittier Daily News, Governor pledges help in battle against gangs, March 5, 2007)

The Washington Post reported on June 14, 2007 that the agency conducted a self-audit of 10 percent of its records on National Security Letter use and found over 1,000 violations. The majority of the violations were associated with the obtaining of telephone records from telecommunication service providers. The FBI acted in the wake of criticism that resulted from an earlier Department of Justice Inspector General report, which determined that the FBI abused the National Security Letter authority established by the Patriot Act.

Fusion Centers are in use without appropriate oversight or justification for their application for routine law enforcement matters or the vast collection, processing, and analysis of privacy and public information databases.


NATO: Speech by NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, ISRIA, June 5, 2008
Homeland Security Summit Shines Spotlight on Gaps, TheState Journal, June 5, 2008
Va. Domestic Intelligence Center Sued for Info
, Ryan Singel, Wired, March 24, 2008
Fusion Center meltdown: Feds stifling open government in VA?, Jon Stokes, Ars Technica, March 24, 2008
Are feds involved in bid to undo state open govt law?, Richard Koman, ZDNet, March 24, 2008
ODNI releases standards for suspicious-activity reporting, Ben Bains, Federal Computer Week, January 30, 2008
Intelligence Strategy to Help States, EILEEN SULLIVAN, Associate Press, October 31, 2007
Tech-heavy fusion centers to gain firefighting expertise, Wilson P. Dizard III, Government Computer News, October 30, 2007
House Armed Services Committee chairman tours command , United States Joint Forces Command, Public Affairs, October 29, 2007
Remarks by Secretary Michael Chertoff at the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Secretary Chertoff, Statement, October 26, 2007
Department of Homeland Security Selects NC4 to Deliver Secure 360 Degree Intelligence Exchange, Press Release NC4, October 22, 2007
Concerns about Nebraska Fusion Center on NET Radio Friday, Oct. 26, Southwest Nebraska News – NE,USA, October 22, 2007
New technology was key to arrest of fugitive for 35 years, Phil Scott/Eyewitness News, Channel 13, Indianapolis, MN, October 18, 2007
IT Problems Hinder Data Sites That Combat Terrorism, John McCormick, CIO Insight, October 15, 2007
The City’s Critical Link To All First Responders, Allison Klein, Washington Post, October 11, 2007
Baca plans clearinghouse on gangs, Richard Winton in the Los Angeles Times, October 11, 2007
Lawmakers want to clarify the centers’ responsibilities and future funding, Ben Bain, Federal Computer Week, October 8, 2007
Fusion Center enables CIA to spy for, not on, Ohioans, Robert Morton, Bucyrus Telegraph Forum, October 3, 2007
The blue front line, Editorial Dallas Morning News, October 1, 2007
Interdiction Plus Initiative Announced For Tennessee, The Chattanoogan.com, October 1, 2007
National Security News, BlueRidgeNow.com, September 27, 2 007
Governor Proclaims Hoosier Helper Week, Indiana Inside Business, September 20, 2007
Officials Defend Privacy Record of Intelligence Sharing Centers, Congressional Quarterly, September 20, 2007
Kentucky Governor Announces 2007 Homeland Security Grant Awards, All American Patriots, September 19, 2007
Profile of a newsmaker: Coast Guard Academy grad, Norwich Bulletin, August 29, 2007
Secret site houses high-tech law unit, Orlando Sentinel, August 28, 2007
‘Fusion’ center watches for terrorism, Star-Tribune, August 26, 2007
Colorado ‘fusion’ center alert for possible terrorist attacks, Aspen Times, August 24, 2007
State fusion centers struggle to produce useful info, study finds, John Montroe, Federal Computer Week, July 27, 2007
State-run sites not effective vs. terror, Mimi Hall, USA Today, July 2007
CRS slams fusion center IT in audit of state command centers, Wilson P. Dizard III, Government Computer News, July 25, 2007
He Shall Overcome, Daniel Polit, Slate, July 24, 2007
Houston area to get more federal anti-terror dollars, Anne M. Kilday and Matt Stiles, Houston Chronicle, July 17, 2007
Fusion Center for police officers, Channel 16, WNDU.com, July 24, 2007
Intelligence takes a back seat, Star-Telegraph, July 20, 2007
Indiana Homeland Security Receives [41.7] Millions in Grants, Inside Indiana Business, July 20, 2007
Proposed FBI Data Center Sparks Privacy Fears, Dina Temple-Raston, National Public Radio, July 19, 2007
Four potential risks to intelligence fusion centers, Michael Hampton, Homeland Stupidity, July 16, 2007
Miss. leads cybercrime fight, Clarion Ledger, July 16, 2007
The Rise of Intelligence Fusion Centers, Secrecy News, July 2007
Crime info trumps terror data at fusion centers, Alice Lipowicz Washington Technology, July 9, 2007
CRS: Mission creep at fusion centers, Government Computer News, July 9, 2007
‘Fusion Centers’ Now Consolidate Data – With No Accountability
, Privacy Journal, July 2007
Nevada homeland security adviser leaving, Las Vegas Sun, July 3, 2007
Expansion of local intelligence-sharing centers sparks controversy, Government Executive, February 13, 2007

Online Resources


You are Where You’ve Been-Location Technology

Oklahoma Electronic Insurance Verification System Not Reliable Yet

December 29, 2008

(relevant post Brogdon Reacts(relevant post- Woolly Boogers

A new electronic system to verify automobile insurance in Oklahoma is operational, but not yet reliable.

A law passed in 2006 takes effect Jan. 1, 2009, allowing law enforcement agencies and tag agents to check for up-to-date automobile insurance electronically through a database maintained by the Department of Public Safety.

The system is in place, but testing shows it is accurate only 60 percent of the time, Oklahoma Tax Commission officials said.

Because of that, law enforcement officials and tag agents are being told not to rely on the information it provides, said David Beatty, the department’s project manager for the Oklahoma Compulsory Insurance Verification System.

The system is able to verify coverage from some insurance companies, but a few have not entered clients’ information in the database, Beatty said.

Dan Ramsey, president of the Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, said the main delay has been in the issuance of new security verification cards, which now must include insurers’ five-digit codes from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Ramsey said state Insurance Department rules and procedures for verification forms were finalized in October, which put the insurance industry behind in getting its part done.

Beatty, who has worked on the project since February, said the Oklahoma Tax Commission, the Department of Public Safety, Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma and the state Insurance Department had input.

“Vehicle owners will have to continue to carry insurance verification in their cars and have it when renewing a tag or registering a new vehicle,” said Russ Nordstrom, director of the Tax Commission’s motor vehicle division.

Nordstrom said tag agents will not turn away anyone who has an authentic insurance verification card but does not pass an electronic check.

Beatty said he hopes the new system will be reliable within six months.

Information from: The Oklahoman, www.newsok.com

Woolly Boogers Loose in the Oklahoma State House? Online insurance verification bill

Original Post Feb, 23, 2009

WOOLLY BOOGERS in the Oklahoma State House?

What in the heck is a woolly booger?

A Real Live Woolly Booger

A Real Live Woolly Booger

From Goat Philosophy 101;

Always Trust a Woolly Booger

“In truth, they are the larvae of the Spotted Tussock Moth. More night fliers. Just what we need around here.”

OK.  Now we know what a  “woolly booger”  is.

That technical lingo that those highfalutin’ lawmakers use makes me feel so uneducated!

“Woolly Boogers” and “Conspiracy Theories” are the terms used by Rep. Ken Miller (kenmiller@okhouse.gov (405) 557-7360) to characterize some House members and their concerns about HB2013.

Miller offers that he helped install a GPS device on a friend’s car and that it had nothing to do with a bar code (??) He says that the barcode on our new license plates are “empty” and he has bar codes on his groceries and of the concerns raised, Miller says that he heard a lot of things that “Frankly just don’t concern me at all,(snicker)” (30:55 on audio)

Bar Code! We Don’t Need No Stinking Bar Codes!

Bar Code!  We Don't Need No Stinking Bar Codes!

RELEVANT POST: EU Develops RFID License Plate Tracking


The audio file can be accessed here http://www.lsb.state.ok.us/ select the date, Feb 19th then select track # 1008 (HB2013)to listen.

Go to 19:50 time on the audio file to get to the interesting part, the debate.  The previous 19 minutes consists of Rep. Miller presenting bill 2013, ostensibly a bill designed to clean up the language of an earlier bill regarding insurance verification for motorists passed 1 or 2 years ago.  *Yawn*

And questions from Rep. Ritze, Rep. Key and Rep. Reynolds and Rep. Morrissette regarding the following  topics

(note: I am paraphrasing the exchange)

*Is the bill a “requested bill”   and who requested it?

Rep. Miller answers that, Yes. It was requested by DPS, the OK. Tax Commission, the  OK.Insurance Department and “Industry” (Which refers to InsureNet.)

*Why was the deadline for implementing the original bill (July 1 2008)  missed?

Miller said some small companies had not achieved compliance due to not reporting properly.

Listen from 2:55 to 4:55 for Rep. Miller’s too-twisty-to-type reply when asked to name what small insurance company was out of compliance and why by Reynolds.

See this newsarticle dated Dec. 29, 2008

Oklahoma Electronic Insurance Verification System Not Reliable Yet


A new electronic system to verify automobile insurance in Oklahoma is operational, but not yet reliable.

A law passed in 2006 takes effect Jan. 1, 2009, allowing law enforcement agencies and tag agents to check for up-to-date automobile insurance electronically through a database maintained by the Department of Public Safety.

The system is in place, but testing shows it is accurate only 60 percent of the time, Oklahoma Tax Commission officials said.

Because of that, law enforcement officials and tag agents are being told not to rely on the information it provides, said David Beatty, the department’s project manager for the Oklahoma Compulsory Insurance Verification System.. . .


*Had there been discussion between involved parties and InsureNet and is the new or altered language the result of that communication.

Miller said (paraphrasing) that Yes.  There had been communication and while InsureNet submitted suggestions, none of their language was used.

Rep. Key expressed concern over system glitches that might show a motorist is uninsured when, in fact they are and then their car is impounded disrupting the person’s livelihood.

Rep. Ritze at 11:16 asks if this is a proposed online database shared with DPS and had DPS’s database ever been hacked or breached. (Later it is revealed by Reynolds that, in fact DPS computer database security was recently was breached.  I have not located a news story on this but will find out more.)

Here is one web manual CIVS Oklahoma Compulsory Insurance Verification System. Here is the more in-depth one if you are a computer techie sort.  (See a description of problems in TX here )

Rep Miller states he had no idea and continually reintegrates that the intent of HB2013 is simply to “clean up language.”

*Had there been discussion between involved parties and InsureNet and is the new or altered language the result of that communication. (15:50) Miller said (paraphrasing) that, “Yes,” there had been communication and while InsureNet submitted suggestions, none of their language was used.

Reynolds asked what would be InsureNet’s interest in changes.  Miller says because they (InsureNet) would like to be the carrier.

I’m sure you are catching the drift of this back and forth by this point so I’ll skip any further blow by blow.

The audio file can be accessed at http://www.lsb.state.ok.us/ . Select the date, Feb 19th then select track # 1008 (HB2013)to listen.

At 30:47 you can hear Rep. Miller speak to the issue of “wooly boogers.”

So, I began to tear up the web searching for info that will illuminate this issue.  Are private companies driving legislation in our state, promising heaps of revenue to other companies (in this case insurance) and to state agencies and is this revenue to be ill-gotten by devising more and more intrusive ways of “catching” us?  Is this what is driving the apparent burning need for umpteen plus forty databases all interconnected, gleaning every smidge of personal, biographical and biometric info possible AND hooking our virtual selves up with foreign countries?  From my scrutiny of AAMVA, the reigning masters of private industry driving legislation for the sole purpose of endlessly milking the American people, the ultimate cash cow for these companies, I’s say at the very least we ought to look into this.  I can say with all certainty that AAMVA works exactly this way and I am sure they are spreading the good news to all of their associates.  This is NOT good old privatization!  This is Public Private Partnerships or PPP’s. You would not want to confuse the two ideas because they don’t remotely work the same.  Public Private Partnerships make deals with governmental agencies so that they have the benefit of government taxing and enforcement to secure their companies fortune.  These companies present their wares  showcasing how it will bring in heaps of revenue to the government.  They help to create laws and policies to justify and implement schemes that support these products.  In a nutshell, what we get is corporate government.  Not government by and for and of the people.  This was the genesis of Real ID.

Here is a good explanation of why Public Private Partnerships should not be equated with the simple notion of privatization, which we associate with smaller government and more efficiency.


It is little understood by the general public how public/private partnerships can be used, not as a way to diminish the size of government, but in fact, to increase government’s power.

Slowly, the whole comes together. By the time people realize the truth, it’s already in place. Policy is set. [. . . ]

And Public/Private Partnerships are becoming the fastest growing process to impose such policy. State legislatures across the nation are passing legislation, which calls for the implementation of PPPs.

Beware. These bonds between government and private international corporations are a double-edged sword. They come armed with government’s power to tax, the government’s power to enforce policy and the government’s power to enforce eminent domain.

At the same time, the private corporations use their wealth and extensive advertising budgets to entrench the policy into our national conscience. Cute little jingles or emotional commercials can be very useful tools to sell a government program.


How about InsureNet?

Well, InsurNet is an associate of AAMVA.  Judging from the 35 page long document-who isn’t an associate of AAMVA’s?

Yes, life is good for AAMVA!



InsureNet, Inc.

2447 Lost Valley Trail

Conyers, GA 30094

Phone: (864) 247-0499 Fax: (864) 882-1595


Contact: Mr. Mike McGrey

Contact Email: mike213@bellsouth.net

InsureNet provides the world’s only accurate and non-invasive vehicle insurance verification system. It embraces all states, every jurisdiction inside each state, every insurer and is intrastate, interstate and international in operation. It is currently connected to every state in the nation and has been recognized as the national standard for law enforcement.

More on AAMVA:

From the Stop Real ID Coalition blogspot

Aside from First, Fourth and Tenth amendment issues, the Real ID Act has another major downside. DHS has named AAMVA (American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators) the “backbone” of the Real ID Act. AAMVA is an international organization. AAMVA is promoting the Driver’s License Agreement. The agreement calls for the United States, Mexico and Canada to share all drivers information stored in each country’s respective DMV databases. Grant money from the federal government has been available to States to participate in the DLA. http://www.aamva.org/aamva/DocumentDisplay.aspx?id=%7BC600908E-2538-4135-8166-1B25BB682698%7D This is the precursor to the North American Union otherwise named the Security and Prosperity Partnership. If we want to stop the NAU or SPP we MUST repeal the Real ID Act. I have the actual DLA paperwork. Scary does not do it justice. It threatens State’s rights and U.S. sovereignty.

Then there is this article from 2006


InsureNet has developed and owns a patented automated system and method for providing accurate, on-the-spot insurance status verification by officers responding to the scene of an accident or a routine traffic stop. “The parts are now in place for the first-ever national vehicle insurance verification system that will allow law enforcement to immediately, at the scene, accurately determine the insurance status of a vehicle,” said Nlets’ Executive Director, Steve Correll. “This no-cost service (Oh, someone will pay.  Guess who?!) by Nlets and InsureNet  intended to enable those who protect our society to do their jobs more effectively and safely.” E[acute accent]Securely housed within Nlets’ national data center in Phoenix,

OK-SAFE Inc. asks some very good questions;

-InsureNet or DragNet? Apparently Oklahoma is entertaining ideas of adopting a vehicle surveillance system called InsureNet to target “uninsured vehicles,” and which is linked to such international organizations as AAMVA (model of the REAL ID requirements)

Utilizing ALPR (Automatic License Plate Recognition) cameras and other technology, the system can scan a license plate in 2 seconds and verify if the vehicle is insured or not.  In one 8-hour shift, thousands of unsuspecting drivers could have their vehicle insurance status data checked electronically. (A money maker for the insurance companies and stockholders?)

Calls to Representative Ken Miller about HB 2013 would be in order

-Couple a vehicle surveillance system with the current pending Oklahoma legislation attempting to expand the reasons to collect DNA from Oklahomans, the question has to be asked – just what is going on in Oklahoma?

OK-SAFE, Inc. thanks you for your prompt action on these important topics and, as always, encourages you to “read the bill” before making decisions to support or oppose.

Here is a brochure from 3M on their Digital License Plate System-These are our new plates.

And This One on Electronic Vehicle Registration


Here is some info on ALRP and how it is used.


Source http://www.comptonasap.com/public_ASAP.pdf

Automatic License Plate Recognition (ALPR) Technology

The ASAP system will utilize “Automatic License Plate Recognition” (ALPR) technology. The ALPR software utilizes advanced optical character recognition (OCR) in order to read and record vehicle license plates in day or night conditions. All vehicle license plates are then automatically run through a “wanted” system. This system will automatically notify the Command Center of any “Hits” and the current location of the vehicle.

emphasis added

Do we no longer subscribe to the notion of Probable Cause?  I thought that there needed to be a darn good reason to search a person in this country. This IS a dragnet!


And couple that tech with this tech.



Mobile Wireless Surveillance Cameras

A mobile surveillance camera located in a parked vehicle would replace a traditional surveillance crew. The vehicle would be parked next to targeted locations and monitored via a wireless link. The risk of compromise is minimal since decoy vehicles would appear unoccupied. This system offers a substantial cost savings to the Sheriff’s Department as only one deputy would be needed to conduct surveillance from a safe location versus utilizing a team of deputies in the field.

Fair warning to any who wants to start that “if you aren’t doing anything wrong” line of reasoning-Don’t!  I am not “Human BeingUnder Glass-a modern art exhibit!   Are we all under suspicion all the time like naughty school children?  And who presumes to monitor us day and night?  Our superiors? Our lords, our masters?  These officials are my peers, my equals-they are public SERVANTS.  They have no right to mass surveil us without suspicion!

But wait, there’s more.

ALPR Equipped Sheriff Radio Cars

The Automatic License Plate Recognition system can be applied to Sheriff radio cars. As the radio car drives throughout its jurisdiction, the ALPR system is continuously reading and checking the license plate of vehicles against a “wanted” list. The ALPR system will automatically notify the deputy of any “hits” it receives such as a stolen vehicle, vehicle wanted for a shooting, etc.

ALPR Equipped Mobile Vans

ALPR technology could also be utilized to equip surveillance vans. The vans would utilize a bank of digital surveillance cameras with nighttime capability and ALPR software. The vans could be utilized in a visible or undercover surveillance mode. The

ALPR vans could be deployed as needed at checkpoints, airports, shipping ports or any other number of special details. The true strengths of these vans would come out when they are deployed on freeway overpasses or freeway on/off ramps throughout Los Angeles County. This can be especially useful when a specific vehicle is being sought

Source link http://www.comptonasap.com/public_ASAP.pdf

Somebody sure did a good job selling the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department on this setup, I swear I can hear the author breathing hard as I read.


I have looked at documents and read up on this issue for the last 20 hours and I will be posting more on what I have found but for the sake of ever getting this posted, I have to stop here.  There is so much to tell yet so little time.

Here is the bottom line as far as I am concerned; This is just one more avenue leading us to a total surveillance society.

Take a look at this freshly released Surveillance: Citizens and the State ordered in 2004 to be undertaken by The House of Lords, UK. On the effects and concerns about the effects on “the impact that government surveillance and data collection have upon the privacy of citizens and their relationship with the State.”

I have yet to read this lengthy report but, I am confident that it will put Rep. Miller’s unbearably witty rhetoric on “conspiracies” and “woolly boogers” firmly into proper context.  Tactics like ridicule are losing sway with the public who is beginning to become familiar enough with the intrusive technologies and schemes already in place to sense and see for themselves the danger inherit in them.

The UK is only a step or two ahead of us and what is taking place there is a harbinger for the US.  I predict that this report marks the beginning of a furious degree of utterly impotent back peddling as the tangible results of this folly become undeniable.

We should take a lesson from our British cousins in this as well as the consequences they suffer from their inclusion into the European Union.  Some things, once established, cannot be undone.

And as for the Woolly Boogers-the wise goat tells us just what it is they are good for;

Always Trust a Woolly Booger

Woolly Boogers are quite useful. People have their long-range forecasting models and their Doppler radars, learned meteorologists, and all sorts of ‘equipment’ to forecast the weather. With all that equipment, one would think they’d have the weather pegged, wouldn’t one? But, no, most of the time they say it will do one thing and it actually does quite another.

Goats, on the other hand, have a much more sophisticated and reliable means of predicting the weather. At least in the case of the winter weather. You see, the way it works is that in the Fall if one notices many Wooly Boogers crawling about , resting on latches, falling in the water tub, crawling up the side of the barn, or residing on that dried leaf you had your eye on from way across the pasture, it means we are going to have an ‘exciting’ winter.

In light of the useful nature of the much maligned Woolly Booger, I hereby name Representative Key, Reynolds, Ritze and any others who expressed their concern about the ramifications of this and similar measures, Honorary Woolly Boogers for their reliable forecasting as to the weather that lies ahead for the people of this state.  Well Done!

****Last comment***Under irony, a publication like this one intended for companies that intend to make a fortune by siphoning off our personal data for profit issuing this disclaimer might suffice.  From now on, I’m going to using it for my own.  Just substitute “person” for “publication” and you are set!

© 2002 Smart Card News Ltd., Brighton, England. No part of this publication  person may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, optical, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers.

The Last Roundup from Radar Magazine

In the spring of 2007, a retired senior official in the U.S. Justice Department sat before Congress and told a story so odd and ominous, it could have sprung from the pages of a pulp political thriller. It was about a principled bureaucrat struggling to protect his country from a highly classified program with sinister implications. Rife with high drama, it included a car chase through the streets of Washington, D.C., and a tense meeting at the White House, where the president’s henchmen made the bureaucrat so nervous that he demanded a neutral witness be present.

The bureaucrat was James Comey, John Ashcroft‘s second-in-command at the Department of Justice during Bush’s first term. Comey had been a loyal political foot soldier of the Republican Party for many years. Yet in his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he described how he had grown increasingly uneasy reviewing the Bush administration’s various domestic surveillance and spying programs. Much of his testimony centered on an operation so clandestine he wasn’t allowed to name it or even describe what it did. He did say, however, that he and Ashcroft had discussed the program in March 2004, trying to decide whether it was legal under federal statutes. Shortly before the certification deadline, Ashcroft fell ill with pancreatitis, making Comey acting attorney general, and Comey opted not to certify the program. When he communicated his decision to the White House, Bush’s men told him, in so many words, to take his concerns and stuff them in an undisclosed location.

The Continuity of Governance program encompasses national emergency plans that would trigger the takeover of the country by extra-constitutional forces. In short, it’s a road map for martial law

Comey refused to knuckle under, and the dispute came to a head on the cold night of March 10, 2004, hours before the program’s authorization was to expire. At the time, Ashcroft was in intensive care at George Washington Hospital following emergency surgery. Apparently, at the behest of President Bush himself, the White House tried, in Comey’s words, “to take advantage of a very sick man,” sending Chief of Staff Andrew Card and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales on a mission to Ashcroft’s sickroom to persuade the heavily doped attorney general to override his deputy. Apprised of their mission, Comey, accompanied by a full security detail, jumped in his car, raced through the streets of the capital, lights blazing, and “literally ran” up the hospital stairs to beat them there.

Minutes later, Gonzales and Card arrived with an envelope filled with the requisite forms. Ashcroft, even in his stupor, did not fall for their heavy-handed ploy. “I’m not the attorney general,” Ashcroft told Bush’s men. “There”—he pointed weakly to Comey—”is the attorney general.” Gonzales and Card were furious, departing without even acknowledging Comey’s presence in the room. The following day, the classified domestic spying program that Comey found so disturbing went forward at the demand of the White House—”without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality,” he testified.

What was the mysterious program that had so alarmed Comey? Political blogs buzzed for weeks with speculation. Though Comey testified that the program was subsequently readjusted to satisfy his concerns, one can’t help wondering whether the unspecified alteration would satisfy constitutional experts, or even average citizens. Faced with push-back from his bosses at the White House, did he simply relent and accept a token concession? Two months after Comey’s testimony to Congress, the New York Times reported a tantalizing detail: The program that prompted him “to threaten resignation involved computer searches through massive electronic databases.” The larger mystery remained intact, however. “It is not known precisely why searching the databases, or data mining, raised such a furious legal debate,” the article conceded.

Another clue came from a rather unexpected source: President Bush himself. Addressing the nation from the Oval Office in 2005 after the first disclosures of the NSA’s warrantless electronic surveillance became public, Bush insisted that the spying program in question was reviewed “every 45 days” as part of planning to assess threats to “the continuity of our government.”

Few Americans—professional journalists included—know anything about so-called Continuity of Government (COG) programs, so it’s no surprise that the president’s passing reference received almost no attention. COG resides in a nebulous legal realm, encompassing national emergency plans that would trigger the takeover of the country by extra-constitutional forces—and effectively suspend the republic. In short, it’s a road map for martial law.

While Comey, who left the Department of Justice in 2005, has steadfastly refused to comment further on the matter, a number of former government employees and intelligence sources with independent knowledge of domestic surveillance operations claim the program that caused the flap between Comey and the White House was related to a database of Americans who might be considered potential threats in the event of a national emergency. Sources familiar with the program say that the government’s data gathering has been overzealous and probably conducted in violation of federal law and the protection from unreasonable search and seizure guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.

According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, “There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived ‘enemies of the state’ almost instantaneously.” He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.


Of course, federal law is somewhat vague as to what might constitute a “national emergency.” Executive orders issued over the past three decades define it as a “natural disaster, military attack, [or] technological or other emergency,” while Department of Defense documents include eventualities like “riots, acts of violence, insurrections, unlawful obstructions or assemblages, [and] disorder prejudicial to public law and order.” According to one news report, even “national opposition to U.S. military invasion abroad” could be a trigger.

Let’s imagine a harrowing scenario: coordinated bombings in several American cities culminating in a major blast—say, a suitcase nuke—in New York City. Thousands of civilians are dead. Commerce is paralyzed. A state of emergency is declared by the president. Continuity of Governance plans that were developed during the Cold War and aggressively revised since 9/11 go into effect. Surviving government officials are shuttled to protected underground complexes carved into the hills of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Power shifts to a “parallel government” that consists of scores of secretly preselected officials. (As far back as the 1980s, Donald Rumsfeld, then CEO of a pharmaceutical company, and Dick Cheney, then a congressman from Wyoming, were slated to step into key positions during a declared emergency.) The executive branch is the sole and absolute seat of authority, with Congress and the judiciary relegated to advisory roles at best. The country becomes, within a matter of hours, a police state.

In case of a wide-scale attack, the executive branch becomes the sole and absolute seat of authority. The country becomes, within a matter of hours, a police stateInterestingly, plans drawn up during the Reagan administration suggest this parallel government would be ruling under authority given by law to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, home of the same hapless bunch that recently proved themselves unable to distribute water to desperate hurricane victims. The agency’s incompetence in tackling natural disasters is less surprising when one considers that, since its inception in the 1970s, much of its focus has been on planning for the survival of the federal government in the wake of a decapitating nuclear strike.

Under law, during a national emergency, FEMA and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security, would be empowered to seize private and public property, all forms of transport, and all food supplies. The agency could dispatch military commanders to run state and local governments, and it could order the arrest of citizens without a warrant, holding them without trial for as long as the acting government deems necessary. From the comfortable perspective of peaceful times, such behavior by the government may seem far-fetched. But it was not so very long ago that FDR ordered 120,000 Japanese Americans—everyone from infants to the elderly—be held in detention camps for the duration of World War II. This is widely regarded as a shameful moment in U.S. history, a lesson learned. But a long trail of federal documents indicates that the possibility of large-scale detention has never quite been abandoned by federal authorities. Around the time of the 1968 race riots, for instance, a paper drawn up at the U.S. Army War College detailed plans for rounding up millions of “militants” and “American negroes,” who were to be held at “assembly centers or relocation camps.” In the late 1980s, the Austin American-Statesman and other publications reported the existence of 10 detention camp sites on military facilities nationwide, where hundreds of thousands of people could be held in the event of domestic political upheaval. More such facilities were commissioned in 2006, when Kellogg Brown & Root—then a subsidiary of Halliburton—was handed a $385 million contract to establish “temporary detention and processing capabilities” for the Department of Homeland Security. The contract is short on details, stating only that the facilities would be used for “an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs.” Just what those “new programs” might be is not specified.

In the days after our hypothetical terror attack, events might play out like this: With the population gripped by fear and anger, authorities undertake unprecedented actions in the name of public safety. Officials at the Department of Homeland Security begin actively scrutinizing people who—for a tremendously broad set of reasons—have been flagged in Main Core as potential domestic threats. Some of these individuals might receive a letter or a phone call, others a request to register with local authorities. Still others might hear a knock on the door and find police or armed soldiers outside. In some instances, the authorities might just ask a few questions. Other suspects might be arrested and escorted to federal holding facilities, where they could be detained without counsel until the state of emergency is no longer in effect.

It is, of course, appropriate for any government to plan for the worst. But when COG plans are shrouded in extreme secrecy, effectively unregulated by Congress or the courts, and married to an overreaching surveillance state—as seems to be the case with Main Core—even sober observers must weigh whether the protections put in place by the federal government are becoming more dangerous to America than any outside threat.

Another well-informed source—a former military operative regularly briefed by members of the intelligence community—says this particular program has roots going back at least to the 1980s and was set up with help from the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has been told that the program utilizes software that makes predictive judgments of targets’ behavior and tracks their circle of associations with “social network analysis” and artificial intelligence modeling tools.

“The more data you have on a particular target, the better [the software] can predict what the target will do, where the target will go, who it will turn to for help,” he says. “Main Core is the table of contents for all the illegal information that the U.S. government has [compiled] on specific targets.” An intelligence expert who has been briefed by high-level contacts in the Department of Homeland Security confirms that a database of this sort exists, but adds that “it is less a mega-database than a way to search numerous other agency databases at the same time

A host of publicly disclosed programs, sources say, now supply data to Main Core. Most notable are the NSA domestic surveillance programs, initiated in the wake of 9/11, typically referred to in press reports as “warrantless wiretapping.”

In March, a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal shed further light onto the extraordinarily invasive scope of the NSA efforts: According to the Journal, the government can now electronically monitor “huge volumes of records of domestic e-mails and Internet searches, as well as bank transfers, credit card transactions, travel, and telephone records.” Authorities employ “sophisticated software programs” to sift through the data, searching for “suspicious patterns.” In effect, the program is a mass catalog of the private lives of Americans. And it’s notable that the article hints at the possibility of programs like Main Core. “The [NSA] effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called black programs whose existence is undisclosed,” the Journal reported, quoting unnamed officials. “Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach.”

“We’re at the edge of a cliff,” says Bruce Fein, a top justice official in the Reagan administration. “To a national emergency planner, everybody looks like a danger to stability”The following information seems to be fair game for collection without a warrant: the e-mail addresses you send to and receive from, and the subject lines of those messages; the phone numbers you dial, the numbers that dial in to your line, and the durations of the calls; the Internet sites you visit and the keywords in your Web searches; the destinations of the airline tickets you buy; the amounts and locations of your ATM withdrawals; and the goods and services you purchase on credit cards. All of this information is archived on government supercomputers and, according to sources, also fed into the Main Core database.

Main Core also allegedly draws on four smaller databases that, in turn, cull from federal, state, and local “intelligence” reports; print and broadcast media; financial records; “commercial databases”; and unidentified “private sector entities.” Additional information comes from a database known as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, which generates watch lists from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for use by airlines, law enforcement, and border posts. According to the Washington Post, the Terrorist Identities list has quadrupled in size between 2003 and 2007 to include about 435,000 names. The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center border crossing list, which listed 755,000 persons as of fall 2007, grows by 200,000 names a year. A former NSA officer tells Radar that the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, using an electronic-funds transfer surveillance program, also contributes data to Main Core, as does a Pentagon program that was created in 2002 to monitor antiwar protesters and environmental activists such as Greenpeace.

If previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people.

A veteran CIA intelligence analyst who maintains active high-level clearances and serves as an advisor to the Department of Defense in the field of emerging technology tells Radar that during the 2004 hospital room drama, James Comey expressed concern over how this secret database was being used “to accumulate otherwise private data on non-targeted U.S. citizens for use at a future time.” Though not specifically familiar with the name Main Core, he adds, “What was being requested of Comey for legal approval was exactly what a Main Core story would be.” A source regularly briefed by people inside the intelligence community adds: “Comey had discovered that President Bush had authorized NSA to use a highly classified and compartmentalized Continuity of Government database on Americans in computerized searches of its domestic intercepts. [Comey] had concluded that the use of that ‘Main Core’ database compromised the legality of the overall NSA domestic surveillance project.”

If Main Core does exist, says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and an outspoken critic of the agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its likely home. “If a master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where there are no legal issues”—the CIA and FBI would be restricted by oversight and accountability laws—”so I suspect it is at DHS, which as far as I know operates with no such restraints.” Giraldi notes that DHS already maintains a central list of suspected terrorists and has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable threat to domestic security. “It’s clear that DHS has the mandate for controlling and owning master lists. The process is not transparent, and the criteria for getting on the list are not clear.” Giraldi continues, “I am certain that the content of such a master list [as Main Core] would not be carefully vetted, and there would be many names on it for many reasons—quite likely including the two of us.”

Would Main Core in fact be legal? According to constitutional scholar Bruce Fein, who served as associate deputy attorney general under Ronald Reagan, the question of legality is murky: “In the event of a national emergency, the executive branch simply assumes these powers”—the powers to collect domestic intelligence and draw up detention lists, for example—”if Congress doesn’t explicitly prohibit it. It’s really up to Congress to put these things to rest, and Congress has not done so.” Fein adds that it is virtually impossible to contest the legality of these kinds of data collection and spy programs in court “when there are no criminal prosecutions and [there is] no notice to persons on the president’s ‘enemies list.’ That means if Congress remains invertebrate, the law will be whatever the president says it is—even in secret. He will be the judge on his own powers and invariably rule in his own favor.”

Compared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon’s enemies list or Senator Joe McCarthy’s blacklist look downright crudeThe veteran CIA intelligence analyst notes that Comey’s suggestion that the offending elements of the program were dropped could be misleading: “Bush [may have gone ahead and] signed it as a National Intelligence Finding anyway.”

But even if we never face a national emergency, the mere existence of the database is a matter of concern. “The capacity for future use of this information against the American people is so great as to be virtually unfathomable,” the senior government official says.
In any case, mass watch lists of domestic citizens may do nothing to make us safer from terrorism. Jeff Jonas, chief scientist at IBM, a world-renowned expert in data mining, contends that such efforts won’t prevent terrorist conspiracies. “Because there is so little historical terrorist event data,” Jonas tells
Radar, “there is not enough volume to create precise predictions.”

The overzealous compilation of a domestic watch list is not unique in postwar American history. In 1950, the FBI, under the notoriously paranoid J. Edgar Hoover, began to “accumulate the names, identities, and activities” of suspect American citizens in a rapidly expanding “security index,” according to declassified documents. In a letter to the Truman White House, Hoover stated that in the event of certain emergency situations, suspect individuals would be held in detention camps overseen by “the National Military Establishment.” By 1960, a congressional investigation later revealed, the FBI list of suspicious persons included “professors, teachers, and educators; labor-union organizers and leaders; writers, lecturers, newsmen, and others in the mass-media field; lawyers, doctors, and scientists; other potentially influential persons on a local or national level; [and] individuals who could potentially furnish financial or material aid” to unnamed “subversive elements.” This same FBI “security index” was allegedly maintained and updated into the 1980s, when it was reportedly transferred to the control of none other than FEMA (though the FBI denied this at the time).

FEMA, however—then known as the Federal Preparedness Agency—already had its own domestic surveillance system in place, according to a 1975 investigation by Senator John V. Tunney of California. Tunney, the son of heavyweight boxing champion Gene Tunney and the inspiration for Robert Redford’s character in the film The Candidate, found that the agency maintained electronic dossiers on at least 100,000 Americans that contained information gleaned from wide-ranging computerized surveillance. The database was located in the agency’s secret underground city at Mount Weather, near the town of Bluemont, Virginia. The senator’s findings were confirmed in a 1976 investigation by the Progressive magazine, which found that the Mount Weather computers “can obtain millions of pieces [of] information on the personal lives of American citizens by tapping the data stored at any of the 96 Federal Relocation Centers”—a reference to other classified facilities. According to the Progressive, Mount Weather’s databases were run “without any set of stated rules or regulations. Its surveillance program remains secret even from the leaders of the House and the Senate.”

Ten years later, a new round of government martial law plans came to light. A report in the Miami Herald contended that Reagan loyalist and Iran-Contra conspirator Colonel Oliver North had spearheaded the development of a “secret contingency plan,”—code-named REX 84—which called “for suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the United States over to FEMA, [and the] appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments.” The North plan also reportedly called for the detention of upwards of 400,000 illegal aliens and an undisclosed number of American citizens in at least 10 military facilities maintained as potential holding camps.

North’s program was so sensitive in nature that when Texas congressman Jack Brooks attempted to question North about it during the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings, he was rebuffed even by his fellow legislators. “I read in Miami papers and several others that there had been a plan by that same agency [FEMA] that would suspend the American Constitution,” Brooks said. “I was deeply concerned about that and wondered if that was the area in which he [North] had worked.” Senator Daniel Inouye, chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Iran, immediately cut off his colleague, saying, “That question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area, so may I request that you not touch upon that, sir.” Though Brooks pushed for an answer, the line of questioning was not allowed to proceed.

Wired magazine turned up additional damaging information, revealing in 1993 that North, operating from a secure White House site, allegedly employed a software database program called PROMIS (ostensibly as part of the REX 84 plan). PROMIS, which has a strange and controversial history, was designed to track individuals—prisoners, for example—by pulling together information from disparate databases into a single record. According to Wired, “Using the computers in his command center, North tracked dissidents and potential troublemakers within the United States. Compared to PROMIS, Richard Nixon‘s enemies list or Senator Joe McCarthy‘s blacklist look downright crude.” Sources have suggested to Radar that government databases tracking Americans today, including Main Core, could still have PROMIS-based legacy code from the days when North was running his programs.

In the wake of 9/11, domestic surveillance programs of all sorts expanded dramatically. As one well-placed source in the intelligence community puts it, “The gloves seemed to come off.” What is not yet clear is what sort of still-undisclosed programs may have been authorized by the Bush White House. Marty Lederman, a high-level official at the Department of Justice under Clinton, writing on a law blog last year, wondered, “How extreme were the programs they implemented [after 9/11]? How egregious was the lawbreaking?” Congress has tried, and mostly failed, to find out.

In July 2007 and again last August, Representative Peter DeFazio, a Democrat from Oregon and a senior member of the House Homeland Security Committee, sought access to the “classified annexes” of the Bush administration’s Continuity of Government program. DeFazio’s interest was prompted by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (also known as NSPD-51), issued in May 2007, which reserves for the executive branch the sole authority to decide what constitutes a national emergency and to determine when the emergency is over. DeFazio found this unnerving.

But he and other leaders of the Homeland Security Committee, including Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, were denied a review of the Continuity of Government classified annexes. To this day, their calls for disclosure have been ignored by the White House. In a press release issued last August, DeFazio went public with his concerns that the NSPD-51 Continuity of Government plans are “extra-constitutional or unconstitutional.” Around the same time, he told the Oregonian: “Maybe the people who think there’s a conspiracy out there are right.”

None of the leading presidential candidates have been asked the question, “As president, will you continue aggressive domestic surveillance programs in the vein of the Bush administration?”Congress itself has recently widened the path for both extra-constitutional detentions by the White House and the domestic use of military force during a national emergency. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 effectively suspended habeas corpus and freed up the executive branch to designate any American citizen an “enemy combatant” forfeiting all privileges accorded under the Bill of Rights. The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act, also passed in 2006, included a last-minute rider titled “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies,” which allowed the deployment of U.S. military units not just to put down domestic insurrections—as permitted under posse comitatus and the Insurrection Act of 1807—but also to deal with a wide range of calamities, including “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack, or incident.”

More troubling, in 2002, Congress authorized funding for the U.S. Northern Command, or NORTHCOM, which, according to Washington Post military intelligence expert William Arkin, “allows for emergency military operations in the United States without civilian supervision or control.”

“We are at the edge of a cliff and we’re about to fall off,” says constitutional lawyer and former Reagan administration official Bruce Fein. “To a national emergency planner, everybody looks like a danger to stability. There’s no doubt that Congress would have the authority to denounce all this—for example, to refuse to appropriate money for the preparation of a list of U.S. citizens to be detained in the event of martial law. But Congress is the invertebrate branch. They say, ‘We have to be cautious.’ The same old crap you associate with cowards. None of this will change under a Democratic administration, unless you have exceptional statesmanship and the courage to stand up and say, ‘You know, democracies accept certain risks that tyrannies do not.'”

As of this writing, DeFazio, Thompson, and the other 433 members of the House are debating the so-called Protect America Act, after a similar bill passed in the Senate. Despite its name, the act offers no protection for U.S. citizens; instead, it would immunize from litigation U.S. telecom giants for colluding with the government in the surveillance of Americans to feed the hungry maw of databases like Main Core. The Protect America Act would legalize programs that appear to be unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, the mystery of James Comey’s testimony has disappeared in the morass of election year coverage. None of the leading presidential candidates have been asked the questions that are so profoundly pertinent to the future of the country: As president, will you continue aggressive domestic surveillance programs in the vein of the Bush administration? Will you release the COG blueprints that Representatives DeFazio and Thompson were not allowed to read? What does it suggest about the state of the nation that the U.S. is now ranked by worldwide civil liberties groups as an “endemic surveillance society,” alongside repressive regimes such as China and Russia? How can a democracy thrive with a massive apparatus of spying technology deployed against every act of political expression, private or public? (Radar put these questions to spokespeople for the McCain, Obama, and Clinton campaigns, but at press time had yet to receive any responses.)

These days, it’s rare to hear a voice like that of Senator Frank Church, who in the 1970s led the explosive investigations into U.S. domestic intelligence crimes that prompted the very reforms now being eroded. “The technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny,” Church pointed out in 1975. “And there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know.”

UPDATE: Since this article went to press, several documents have emerged to suggest the story has longer legs than we thought. Most troubling among these is an October 2001 Justice Department memo that detailed the extra-constitutional powers the U.S. military might invoke during domestic operations following a terrorist attack. In the memo, John Yoo, then deputy assistant attorney general, “concluded that the Fourth Amendment had no application to domestic military operations.” (Yoo, as most readers know, is author of the infamous Torture Memo that, in bizarro fashion, rejiggers the definition of “legal” torture to allow pretty much anything short of murder.) In the October 2001 memo, Yoo refers to a classified DOJ document titled “Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activities Within the United States.” According to the Associated Press, “Exactly what domestic military action was covered by the October memo is unclear. But federal documents indicate that the memo relates to the National Security Agency’s Terrorist Surveillance Program.” Attorney General John Mukasey last month refused to clarify before Congress whether the Yoo memo was still in force.

Meanwhile, congressional sources tell Radar that Congressman Peter DeFazio has apparently abandoned his effort to get to the bottom of the White House COG classified annexes. Penny Dodge, DeFazio’s chief of staff, says otherwise. “We will be sending a letter requesting a classified briefing soon,” she told Radar this week.

This article is from the May/June issue of Radar Magazine. For a risk-free issue, click here

Important Message from The Constitutional Alliance-Real ID

From the Stop Real Id Coalition and The Constitutional Alliance



This is the exact message we are distributing to lawmakers at the Oklahoma State Capitol