A US government program designed to boost security following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, has instead encroached on the personal lives of innocent citizens while providing almost nothing of value, according to a scathing Congressional report released Wednesday.
The bipartisan report by the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations finds more than 70 state and local “fusion centers” created by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to pool local, state and federal intelligence produced reports that were “oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties…and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”
One senior Homeland Security official interviewed by investigators said while some of the information was useful, “There were times when it was, ‘what a bunch of crap is coming through.’”
The report says up to $1.4 billion was used to fund the fusion centers, and it highlights some questionable expenses, including luxury vehicles and high-priced gadgets like “shirt button” cameras and big-screen TVs. It is based on a two-year investigation into how the centers were run and the quality of reports that were produced.
“It’s troubling that the very ‘fusion’ centers that were designed to share information in a post-9/11 world have become part of the problem. Instead of strengthening our counterterrorism efforts, they have too often wasted money and stepped on Americans’ civil liberties,” said Republican Senator Tom Coburn, the Subcommittee’s ranking member who initiated the investigation.
The fusion centers have been described by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano as “one of the centerpieces” of the nation’s counterterrorism efforts.
DHS spokesman Matt Chandler said the report is “out of date, inaccurate and misleading.”
Chandler said fusion centers “play a key role by receiving classified and unclassified information from the federal government and… helping law enforcement on the frontlines better protect their communities from all threats.”