Fusion Centers Spread Despite Civil Libertarian Wariness


Authorities arrested Michael Bauman in March, seizing computers and guns at his Iowa home. They alleged he had threatened to blow up a television relay tower, burn down businesses, and kill police officers. A week later, says the Des Moines Register, Iowa authorities issued public statements to dispel a hoax spread by text and e-mail. It included a warning about a planned gang initiation at an unspecified Wal-Mart store in which three women or girls would be shot. Both cases were handled with help from the Iowa Intelligence Fusion Center, a Des Moines hub for the sharing of information among local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. About 70 fusion centers have been established nationwide with federal assistance since 2006.

Civil libertarians are wary of the growth of fusion centers. They say the centers raise serious privacy issues at a time when new technology, government powers and the war on terrorism are combining to encroach on Americans’ privacy at an unprecedented level. Ben Stone of the Iowa chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union has no complaints about the Iowa Intelligence Fusion Center. There have been some controversies involving fusion centers elsewhere. In March, the Missouri State Highway Patrol was forced to halt distribution of a report prepared by the Missouri Information Analysis Center that linked extremists in the modern militia movement to supporters of third-party presidential candidates such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and former Rep. Bob Barr.

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