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Public Advocacy Is Not a Crime

April 1, 2009
Mike German

What do former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney have in common with former presidential candidates Ron Paul and Bob Barr? Not their politics, certainly. But they do share a commitment to public service and a willingness to challenge the political status quo with bold stands on controversial ideas. These honorable traits, which are essential to a functioning democracy, have helped them establish themselves as effective advocates for social reform both in and out of public office. But the courage to stand up and represent unique viewpoints also gave each of them a less-than-honorable distinction of being named in fusion center intelligence bulletins purporting to describe threats to our domestic security.

Fusion centers are state, local and regional intelligence centers, funded and staffed in part by the federal government, that represent the latest manifestation of a growing national surveillance apparatus. They were originally created to increase terrorism-related information sharing between state, local and federal law enforcement, the intelligence community, the military and the private sector. Over time the mission for these centers has expanded to encompass “all crimes and all hazards,” an overbroad and ill-defined mandate. The analysts working in fusion centers have access to a vast amount of information about their fellow Americans, from criminal intelligence records complied at the state, local, and federal levels, to other government records and even data held by private data aggregators. These analysts might be sworn state and local law enforcement officers, FBI agents, Department of Homeland Security officials, National Guardsmen, active-duty military or even employees of private companies. The ACLU warned about the risks these new intelligence operations posed to privacy and civil liberties in a report issued in November 2007, and updated in July 2008.

The story continues …..

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