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Backgrounder: Fusion Centers: Intelligence Goes Local

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Eben Kaplan, Assistant Editor
February 22, 2007


In the early morning hours of September 9, 2001, a Maryland State Trooper made a routine traffic stop, pulling over a car headed north on I-95 and issuing a speeding ticket. Two days later, the driver of that car, Ziad Jarrah was one of four hijackers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 when it crashed in western Pennsylvania. The officer who issued the speeding ticket had no idea that Jarrah was on a CIA watch list. If he had, experts say, it is possible he might have prevented, or at least disrupted, the worst terrorist attack in history.

About two years later, Maryland opened its Coordination and Analysis Center, an intelligence “fusion center" designed to pool and analyze information from federal, state, and local sources, in an effort to get vital information to the police officers who every day patrol the home front of the “war on terror.” Now in forty-two states plus the District of Colombia, fusion centers represent an important development in state-level homeland security initiatives. In some cases, police departments have even changed how they approach their work, emphasizing intelligence collection and sharing. Though experts applaud efforts to have better informed police officers, some civil libertarians worry about the collection and use of such information.

How Fusion Centers Work

Though fusion centers vary from state to state, most contain similar elements, including members of state law enforcement, public health, social services, public safety, and public works organizations. Increasingly, federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms station representatives at state-level fusion centers.

Read the rest of this article on the cfr.org website.

Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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