By: James T. Bryan, Guest Blogger, Program Manager, Information Sharing Initiatives
On October 17th, 2012 a briefing was held in the Senate Homeland Security committee chambers to address and respond to a recently released report entitled, “Federal Support for and Involvement in State and Local Fusion Center.” (See the law enforcement community’s statement on the report HERE.
Representing the IACP was Jim McMahon, Deputy Executive Director. Other panelists included Vernon Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and representing the Association of State Criminal Investigative Agencies, Michael Sena, President of the National Fusion Center Association, James H. Davis, Commissioner of the Colorado Department of Public Safety and representing the National Governors Association, and Ronald Brooks, President of the National Narcotics Officers Association Coalition, Chair of the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council, and current director of the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center/HIDTA.
After President Sena opened the session, he addressed the four main points to be highlighted by the briefing:
- The value of the fusion center network in counterterrorism efforts;
- The necessity of an all-crimes approach and understanding;
- The breadth of fusion centers and their roles outside of counterterrorism and DHS efforts;
- And the policies in place at every center to govern management and operations.
Commissioner Davis stressed the critical involvement of a Colorado fusion center in a 2009 interstate terrorism investigation and its subsequent arrests, and prosecutions. He promoted the ability of the fusion centers to serve as a quick conduit to the entire law enforcement, Terrorism Liaison Officer, and first responder community. He further urged patience with the maturation of certain centers as it often takes several years for fusion center analysts to be completely proficient.
Deputy Executive Director McMahon also expressed dismay at the theme of the report, denying any claims that fusion centers have no value in counterterrorism efforts. Calling on his experience as a New York State Police Superintendent, McMahon illustrated the early warning signs and clues during the weeks leading up to the 9/11 attacks. He further explained the collaborative, integrating function and success of post 9/11 fusion centers. Ultimately, fusion centers blend all practitioners together and avails all databases towards investigative pursuits.
Director Keenan told of his 39 years of work, and the importance of civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy safeguards with fusion center operations. Further, he related that there are several products developed, or in development, to train criminal justice practitioners and fusion center customers on such issues.
Director Brooks was the last to address the group and stated, “You cannot differentiate terror from crime every time.” Further, Brooks explained that over 90% of all reports, arrests, and prosecutions are by state, local, and tribal law enforcement. He declared that the fusion centers have helped to train law enforcement officers on what to report and how to report. He closed by stating, “There has to be an ongoing platform to use towards the possible prevention of the next terror attack and a fusion center, and the fusion center network provides that.”