Fusion Center Encourages Improper Investigations Of Lobbying Groups And Anti-War Activists

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Mandy Simon, (202) 675-2312; media@dcaclu.org

Fusion Center Encourages Improper Investigations Of Lobbying Groups And Anti-War Activists

WASHINGTON - A
Texas fusion center’s “Prevention Awareness Bulletin” made public last
night is the latest example of inappropriate police intelligence
operations targeting political, religious and social activists for
investigation. The North Central Texas Fusion System bulletin states
that it is “imperative for law enforcement officers to report” the
activities of lobbying groups, Muslim civil rights organizations and
anti-war protest groups in their areas.   

 
“This
memo is not a plea for legitimate intelligence, and seems to endorse
discrimination against Muslims,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of
the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “The idea that the tolerance
advocated by the groups being targeted would be treated as a menace to
American security demonstrates a disregard for civil liberties and a
disdain for democracy itself. The kind of indiscriminate and unlawful
investigations this bulletin calls for always results in a chilling
effect on free speech and association.”
 
The
federal government has facilitated the growth of a network of fusion
centers since 9/11 to expand information collection and sharing
practices among law enforcement agencies, the private sector and the
intelligence community. There are currently 70 fusion centers in the
United States.
 
"It
should be obvious with the constant news of increased violence in
Mexico that Texas needs law enforcement to focus on real criminal
threats instead of targeting religious minorities and groups with
unpopular political opinions." Rebecca Bernhardt, ACLU TX Policy
Director said, "The North Central Texas Fusion Center should
be reviewed to determine whether it can contribute to the serious
public safety mission of Texas or not."
 
Proponents
have claimed all fusion center personnel receive civil rights training,
and that this training is sufficient to protect the privacy and civil
liberties of Americans living in the communities where fusion centers
operate, but this is obviously not the case. The ACLU has long warned
that ambiguities regarding who controls these fusion centers and a
complete lack of oversight over their intelligence activities would
lead to violations like this.
 
“The
Texas fusion center’s bulletin shows an unhealthy disregard for
constitutional rights and democratic processes,” said Michael German,
ACLU National Security Policy Counsel and former FBI Agent. “It
demonstrates the lack of professionalism that exists at fusion centers
and the severe lack of oversight at the state, local and federal
levels. According to its website, North Central Texas Fusion System
bulletins are disseminated to thousands of people in over a hundred
different agencies, and this report directs law enforcement officers
to ‘report’ on the political activities of advocacy groups. The web of
connections it weaves – drawing parallels between Muslim civil
liberties groups, lobbying organizations, peace activists, hip hop
bands, a former congresswoman and even the U.S. Treasury Department –
would be comical if not for the real consequences that these
organizations and individuals might face.”
 
In 2007, the ACLU released a report entitled, “What’s Wrong With Fusion Centers?”
which was updated last year. The report identifies specific concerns
with fusion centers, including their ambiguous lines of authority, the
troubling role of private corporations, the participation of the
military, the use of data mining and the excessive secrecy surrounding
the centers As a national trend
continues to close down public information about this domestic
intelligence network, it continues to grow out of control.Recent
revelations of the Department of Homeland Security’s role in the
Maryland State Police Department’s surveillance of peace groups have
deepened the ACLU’s concerns, particularly because a DHS intelligence
analyst is reportedly assigned to the North Central Texas Fusion
System.
 
To read the ACLU’s report on fusion centers, go to: www.aclu.org/fusion
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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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