Fusion centers gaining national attention
By Todd A. Heywood|Michigan Messenger
Federally funded fusion centers are making headlines again. Michigan Messenger first began reporting on these centers in 2008. The centers are supposed to coordinate anti-terrorism information sharing between local law enforcement and federal authorities. The centers were developed as part of plans to revamp the nation’s ability to detect terrorist activity before any plots could have a chance to be carried out.
Unfortunately, the 72 sites, including one here in Michigan, have been doing far more than sharing terrorism information, reports the Los Angeles Times.
But it turns out that homegrown terrorism pales in frequency and fatalities compared with typical street crime, so many of the centers have begun collecting and distributing criminal intelligence, even of the most mundane kind.
In the process, Homeland Security Department officials say, the centers are developing a system to receive, sort and share crucial information. And they say it’s too soon to judge the program, which is likely to grow in importance as a tool in detecting terrorism before it erupts.
And former Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has weighed in on the situation, voice criticism at a recent event.
“We thought if we just threw the name out there, built a bunch of them, we’d feel a lot better,” former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said this month at George Washington University. “And I frankly think there’s too many of them. We still don’t have quite the protocol we need to make sure that they’re effective.”
Those concerns were raised in Michigan Messenger reporting in 2008 when Michigan Messenger’s sibling site the Colorado Independent looked into fusion centers and found mission creep and a lack of firm authority.