The Department of Homeland Security, law enforcement authorities, and some lawmakers defended information-sharing offices known as “fusion centers” after a sharply critical Senate report saying the offices were wasteful and inept, reports the Washington Post. The report, the result of a two-year review by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations, concluded that the 77 centers nationwide had not produced useful intelligence to support counterterrorism efforts. The report also said the tactics sometimes violated civil liberties.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Ct), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, acknowledged that the centers have some problems but said the report focused too narrowly on intelligence going to federal officials in Washington and ignored broader benefits, including better information sharing with state law enforcement agencies. Several law enforcement groups, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs' Association and the National Fusion Center Association, said the report did not address the significant benefits that fusion centers provide to state, local and tribal law enforcement. “The report incorrectly asserts that a majority of the information or intelligence released by fusion centers is untimely, inaccurate and of little use. This assertion is false,” the groups said in a joint statement. Sen. Tom Coburn (Ok.), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, accused DHS of hindering the investigation and trying to avoid accountability for the fusion center problems.