By Jim Kouri
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano appears to have another failure to add to her incompetency list, according to several experts in intelligence, law enforcement and counterterrorism. A new congressional report denigrates the Department of Homeland Security for not effectively and efficiently using its multi-billion dollar fusion centers supposedly created to provide actionable intelligence for counterterrorism operations within the U.S., according to former police counterterrorism expert Ronald Secord.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) released their biting report on Tuesday evening. According to the Senators, DHS operatives assigned to various state and local fusion centers took taxpayer money and garnered information that was either a duplication of intelligence already gathered by other agencies or wasn’t information that was not even connected to combating terrorism and terrorist groups operating within the United States.
“[Our] investigation discovered that the fusion centers often produced irrelevant, useless or inappropriate intelligence reporting for the DHS, and many centers failed to produce any intelligence whatsoever,” stated the Senators’ report. The actual written report was formulated by top investigators from the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
The investigators reported that they found the department incapable of accurately accounting for how much taxpayer money was spent to support the fusion centers from 2003 to 2011. The Senate investigators also revealed that DHS officials failed to effectively maintain records of how the management at fusion centers spent federal grant money, most of which came from the coffers of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Many policymakers and lawmakers are critical of the intelligence analysis reports they receive from the DHS, and both intelligence consumers and producers often share a frustration over its perceived lack of utility and hence lack of impact. This includes local law enforcement commanders who — more than ever — depend on solid information in order to deploy their resources in post-9/11 America,” said former New York City police intelligence analyst William Scott.
The Homeland Security Act of 2002 directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to prioritize the assignment of officers and analysts to certain state and urban area fusion centers to enhance the security in both public and private sectors.
A fusion center is a collaborative effort to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. Recognizing that fusion centers are a mechanism for information sharing, the federal government — including the Program Manager for the Information Sharing Environment (PM-ISE), who has primary responsibility for government-wide information sharing, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the Department of Justice (DOJ) — is taking steps to partner with fusion centers.
Officials in 43 of the centers Government Accountability Office analysts contacted described their centers as operational, and 34 of these centers had opened since January 2004. Law enforcement entities, such as state police or state bureaus of investigation, are the lead or managing agencies in the majority of the operational centers.
The DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis established the Border Intelligence Fusion Section (BIFS) in November 2010 with the objective of providing U.S. law enforcement, border enforcement, and investigative agencies with multi-source intelligence and law enforcement information to support investigations, interdictions, and other law enforcement operations related to the Southwest border.
The BIFS is said to be a joint, collaborative effort of the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice, Department of Defense, and partners in the Intelligence Community and, as a multi-source/all threats intelligence section.