WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Wednesday reacted critically to a subcommittee report on fusion centers.
“I strongly disagree with the report’s core assertion that ‘fusion centers have been unable to meaningfully contribute to federal counterterrorism efforts,’” Lieberman said. “This statement is not supported by the examples presented in the report and is contrary to the public record, which shows fusion centers have played a significant role in many recent terrorism cases and have helped generate hundreds of tips and leads that have led to current FBI investigations.
“The report does include valuable findings in some areas. It cites examples of inappropriate use of homeland security grant funds and accurately notes that FEMA has struggled to account for how homeland security grant funds are allocated and used, a longstanding concern of mine.
“But the report also contradicts public statements by the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the FBI, who have acknowledged the value fusion centers provide to the intelligence community.
“Fusion centers have stepped up to meet an urgent need in the last decade,” Lieberman said. “Without fusion centers, we would not be able to connect the dots. Fusion centers have been essential to breaking down the information silos and communications barriers that kept the government from detecting the most horrific terrorist attack on this country - even though federal, state, and local officials each held valuable pieces of the puzzle.”
Lieberman noted a number of shortcomings in the report that skew its conclusions. Among them, the report:
- Makes broad assertions about the value of fusion centers but only examines one narrow aspect of fusion center operations, the formal intelligence reporting process.
- Does not examine support provided by the Department of Homeland Security in the form of training and access to classified networks.
- Does not look at finished intelligence products produced by fusion center personnel, or at the liaison officer programs that many centers have established to build ties with local agencies in their state or region.
- Does not look at the important and positive role that the FBI plays in supporting fusion centers through the deployment of intelligence analysts.
- Ignores the importance of the flow of information from federal agencies to the state and local level through fusion centers, which has significantly strengthened the ability of frontline law enforcement officers to detect and prevent potential plots and made our nation safer.
- Fails to acknowledge progress that has been made by the vast majority of the fusion centers in the last few years. Some fusion centers are still underdeveloped, but the vast majority effectively partner with federal agencies in preventing terrorism and addressing other important national security and public safety missions.
The September 11, 2001, terror attacks demonstrated the urgent need for the federal government to improve its information sharing and coordination with state and local governments including law enforcement.
Examples of recent terrorism cases where fusion centers have played a critical role include:
- “Raleigh Jihad” case. This case from 2009 involved Daniel Patrick Boyd and six others who planned to attack Marine Base Quantico. The North Carolina fusion center partnered with the local FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on this investigation.
- Rezwan Ferdaus. Ferdaus is a homegrown violent Islamist extremist was arrested in 2010 in Boston, and planned to attack the Pentagon and the Capitol with remote control small planes attached to explosives. The Massachusetts state fusion center was credited with making a “significant contribution” to the investigation.
- Seattle military recruiting center plot. In 2011, two homegrown violent Islamist extremists were arrested in Seattle for planning to attack a military recruiting center. The initial lead in this case came from a Seattle Police Department informant, and the investigation was jointly coordinated by the FBI and state and local agencies at the Washington State Fusion Center.