According to the Washington Post, a number of US states are fed up with the level of cooperation with federal authorities and are hanging up their own shingles in the intelligence business. Dozens of operation centres are currently operating from coast to coast, and some concerns are being raised about privacy concerns and the level of information sharing these centres are predicated upon.
The post cites an example, which was first hailed as a success, but this sentiment fizzled out:
Officials say an incident on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in 2004 shows the center's effectiveness. State transportation police stopped an SUV after a veiled passenger was seen videotaping the bridge in a suspicious manner. The officers called the fusion center, which discovered that the driver was an unindicted co-conspirator in a Chicago case involving Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group.
Eisenberg contacted a prosecutor in Chicago, who quickly obtained an arrest warrant for the driver as a material witness in the Hamas case.
"The 9/11 commission's major criticism was that people didn't talk to each other," said Dennis R. Schrader, Maryland's director of homeland security. "Well, this is an example of how you had state, local and federal all working together. . . . It's really pretty unbelievable."
To some, though, the incident raised questions about what constitutes dangerous behavior.
The driver, Ismail Elbarasse, a U.S. citizen of Palestinian origin living in Annandale, was quickly released on bond, and the material-witness warrant eventually expired. He was not charged with a crime. His family said the veiled woman, Elbarasse's wife, was simply taping the bay while returning from the beach.
"It was regarded in the community as just a case of overreaction to seeing somebody in a head scarf videotaping," said Ibrahim Hooper of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Civil liberties advocates worry that the fledgling fusion centers could stray into monitoring people engaged in lawful activities, as some members of new police homeland security units have done. A Georgia homeland security officer, for example, was discovered photographing a protest by vegans at a HoneyBaked Ham store in 2003. Privacy advocates are also concerned about the vast amount of information some fusion centers collect -- and the sometimes vague limits on its use and storage.