A nationwide network of “fusion centers” aimed at improving intelligence sharing has done little to make the U.S. more secure after $1.4 billion in federal spending, charge U.S. Senate investigators, the Washington Post reports. The network began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to address concerns that local, state, and federal authorities were not sharing information effectively about terrorist threats. Despite praise from the Department of Homeland Security, the 77 fusion centers became pools of ineptitude, waste, and civil liberties intrusions, says the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations. The report documents spending on items that did little to share intelligence, like “shirt button” cameras, $6,000 laptops, and big-screen televisions. One center spent $45,000 on a decked-out SUV a city official used for commuting.
“In reality, the Subcommittee investigation found that the fusion centers often produced irrelevant, useless or inappropriate intelligence reporting to DHS, and many produced no intelligence reporting whatsoever,” said the report from Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mi.) and ranking minority member Tom Coburn (R-Ok.). The Homeland Security Department condemned the report and defended the fusion centers, saying the Senate investigators relied on out-of-date data. Mike Sena, president of the National Fusion Center Association, an advocacy organization, called the report unfair and said the centers have processed more than 22,000 “suspicious activity reports” that have triggered 1,000 federal inquiries or investigations.