Local intelligence-sharing centers set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have had their anti-terrorism mission diluted by a focus on run-of-the-mill street crime and hazards such as hurricanes, says a Government Accountability Office survey reported by the Associated Press. Of the 43 “fusion centers” already established, only two focus exclusively on preventing terrorism. Center directors complain they were hampered by lack of guidance from Washington and were flooded by often redundant information from multiple computer systems.
Administration officials said encompassing all sorts of crimes in the intelligence dragnet is the best way to catch terrorists. The federal government has provided $130 million to help get the centers off the ground. Until recently, there were no guidelines for setting up the centers and as a result, the information shared and how it is used vary. Centers in Kansas and Rhode Island are the only two focused solely on counterterrorism. Other centers concentrate on all crimes, including drugs and gangs. Washington state’s center has an all-hazards mission so it can focus on natural disasters and public health epidemics in addition to terrorism.