Fusion Center Declares Nation’s Oldest Universities Possible Terrorist Threat

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

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

Fusion Center Declares Nation’s Oldest Universities Possible Terrorist Threat

Internal Document Warns Against Virginia Student Organizations And Associations

WASHINGTON - A
recently published “terrorism threat assessment” from a Virginia fusion
center says the state’s universities and colleges are “nodes for
radicalization” and encourages law enforcement to monitor First
Amendment-protected activities of educational and religious foundations
as terrorism threats. The document, which drew concern today from the
American Civil Liberties Union over its constitutional implications,
also characterizes the “diversity” surrounding a Virginia military base
and the state’s “historically black” colleges as possible threats. The
March 2009 document, which claims there are currently at least fifty
active “terrorist and extremist” groups in Virginia, is posted on the
website www.cryptome.com.

 
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.
 
“If we
are to believe this exaggerated threat assessment, Virginia’s learning
and religious institutions must be hotbeds of terrorist activity,” said
Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative
Office. “This document and its authors have displayed a fundamental
disregard for our constitutional rights of free expression and
association. Unfortunately, it’s not the first time we’ve seen such an
indifference to these basic rights from local fusion centers. Congress
must take the necessary steps to institute real and thorough oversight
mechanisms at fusion centers before we reach a point where we are all
considered potential suspects.”
 
The
Virginia threat assessment comes on the heels of two recently
publicized and troubling documents from Texas and Missouri fusion
centers. From directing local police to investigate non-violent
political activists and religious groups in Texas to advocating
surveillance of third-party presidential candidate supporters in
Missouri, there have been repeated and persistent disclosures of
troubling memos and reports from local fusions centers. Last week, the
ACLU sent five letters to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties urging investigations into
five troubling incidents, several of which have stemmed from DHS-funded
fusion centers.
 
“There
is an appalling lack of oversight at these fusion centers and they are
becoming – as the ACLU has repeatedly warned – a breeding ground for
overzealous police intelligence activities,” said Michael German, ACLU
Policy Counsel and former FBI Agent. “The Virginia threat assessment
isn’t just disturbing for encouraging police to treat education and
religious practices with suspicion, it’s bad law enforcement. Lawmakers
from all levels of government need to enact legislation to protect
against these spying activities that threaten our democracy while doing
nothing to improve security.”
 
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.
 
The Virginia Terrorism Threat Assessment is located at:
 
To read the ACLU’s letters to the DHS Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, go to: www.aclu.org/privacy
 
To read the ACLU’s report on fusion centers, go to:
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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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