One of the government’s most highly touted domestic counterterrorism programs, whichHomeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano has called “one of the centerpieces of our counterterrorism strategy,” has wasted millions of dollars, violated the privacy of American citizens, and diverted funds to local law enforcement concerns—all while failing to furnish useful counterterrorism intelligence, according to a new Congressional report.
Created by Congress in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, the 72 fusion centers were supposed to be a way for federal, state and local officials to share intelligence related to terrorism. The hope was that such information sharing would help root out terror plots before they were carried out.
That has not happened: “The subcommittee investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot,” the report concluded.
The report also found that the centers “forwarded intelligence of uneven quality—oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”
Senate investigators reviewed 610 draft reports created by fusion centers between April 1, 2009, and April 30, 2010, of which only 94 (15.4%) were even related to terrorism. Exactly twice that many, 188 (30.8%), were cancelled, because they lacked “useful information” or violated civil liberties or privacy.
Of the 94 terrorism-related reports, “most were published months after they were received; more than a quarter appeared to duplicate a faster intelligence-sharing process administered by the FBI; and some were based on information drawn from publicly available websites or dated public reports,” according to the report.
During that same 13-month period, the FBI foiled the plans of would-be New York subway attacker Najibullah Zazi; U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan killed 13 people at Fort Hood; Umar Abdulmutallab tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airplane; and (in early May 2010) Faisal Shahzad tried to blow up an SUV in Times Square. The fusion centers, the report says, contributed nothing of value to any of these cases.