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3 October 2012: An explosive 141-page investigative report was quietly released just after midnight by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is an indictment of the practices and procedures of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. While this report provides details of the investigation of “fusion centers,” or intelligence centers across the country under the control of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, it provides critical insight into the workings of the DHS itself.
The report, available here in PDF format, notes that a review by subcommittee investigators of 13 months of reports issued between April 1, 2009 and April 30, 2010 identified no reports that “…uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could [subcommittee investigators] identify a contribution…to disrupt an active terrorist plot.”
The report details a governmental agency led by upper management who are out of touch and out of control. Some explosive findings include:
- The Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-assigned “detailees” or agents to fusion centers often issued shoddy and untimely reports that sometimes endangered citizens civil liberties and protections under the Privacy Act;
Of the 386 unclassified reports reviewed during this investigation, only 94 were found to relate “in some way” to potential terrorist activity, or the activities of a known or suspected terrorist. Of those 94 reports, the usefulness of those reports were deemed as “questionable.”
- DHS intelligence reporters overstepped legal boundaries, including reporting on First Amendment-protected activities lacking a nexus to violence or criminality, and reporting on or improperly characterizing political, religious or ideological speech that is not explicitly violent or criminal.
The subcommittee investigation noted three specific reports that were based on inaccurate, false or misleading information, including the 2011 alleged Russian cyber-attack against an Illinois water plant, which never happened in the manner portrayed by the DHS.
Additionally, the subcommittee found false and misleading information about the alleged “anti-government, anti-Semitic and pro-Constitutional connections” of Jared Loughner in the shooting of Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others. The subcommittee found that Loughner never had any such connections. Lastly, the subcommittee found that the very controversial 2009 Missouri Information Analysis Center Report, more commonly known as the MIAC Militia Report, was based on inaccurate and misleading information.
- The DHS officials who filed useless, problematic or even “potentially illegal” reports generally faced no sanction for their actions. In fact, the subcommittee investigation was able to identify only one case in which an official with a history of serious reporting issues faced any consequences for his mistakes – he was required to attend an extra week of reporting training.
- The Department of Homeland Security lacked accountability for the federal funds budgeted, even to the point of lying about the existence of some fusion centers;
The Department of Homeland Security leaders deliberately hid their internal assessment reports from congressional oversight, first denying that any reports even existed, then disputed sharing their findings with congressional investigators before ultimately providing committee investigators with the reports initially requested.
- The Federal Emergency Management (FEMA), a component of DHS, distributed hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to support state and local fusion centers yet could provide no accountability on how the funds were spent. The subcommittee investigation found that the total amount of federal dollars spent on fusion center activities from 2003 to 2011 ranged from $289 million to $1.4 billion. Much of the money was apparently used for surveillance equipment well outside the scope and intent of the analytical activity of the fusion centers.
Based on this investigative report alone, it is apparent that the Department of Homeland Security is mismanaged at the highest levels to the point of threatening the civil liberties of every American citizen while failing to uncover any domestic terror threat or plot.
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