At the state and local level, there is often no mechanism to ensure that fusion centers are generating useful information or complying with the law. At the federal level, the DHS is responsible for verifying that the data shared by fusion centers meet certain minimum standards. But the DHS has delegated this responsibility to the centers themselves and has not conducted independent audits.
DHS oversight has been so poor that the department could not even say how much money it has spent on fusion centers, estimating the cost at somewhere from $289 million to $1.4 billion.
The fusion center system needs an immediate overhaul. Haphazardly collecting information about Americans and calling it “intelligence” damages civil liberties and national security.
As the Senate report recommends, the DHS should work closely with state and local governments to create independent oversight mechanisms and ensure that fusion centers collect and share information lawfully and effectively.
Faiza Patel is co-director and Michael Price is counsel for the Brennan Center’s Liberty and National Security Program.