Established after the attacks on 9/11, so-called fusion centers are state-run entities that are supposed to gather and share information to stop terroristic attacks before they happen. Today, 80 of these fusion centers exist across the country. But how do they differentiate between citizens exercising their first amendment right to free speech versus someone who is engaging in or planning unlawful activity?
While these fusion centers are run by state law enforcement and agencies, they are largely funded by federal dollars by way of the department of homeland security. Further, this network of law enforcement agencies is receiving intelligence from federal agencies with no oversight to ensure the information is handled properly. Thus, despite being under State control, the federal government is essential to the continuation of the fusion centers.
Almost Unfiltered Sharing Of Information In The Network
Originally, fusion centers were established for counterterrorism. However, since their inception, the fusion centers have expanded this mission well beyond domestic terror threats to include “all crimes and all hazards.” This expansion in their mission has led to an almost unfiltered sharing of information in the network.
Illegally Share Sensitive FBI Information - Whistleblower
In Maine, a whistleblower revealed that a local fusion center in the state was collecting and sharing information about citizens that were not suspected of any criminal behavior. For example, the center was collecting information on gun purchasers, protestors, and even people frequently traveling to New York City. Storing and sharing information about citizens not suspected of criminal activity is alarming enough, but the whistleblower also alleged that the fusion center supervisors were pressuring him to illegally share sensitive FBI information that he had access to because of his position on a joint terrorism task force.
Important For Defense Attorney To Know How Evidence Was Obtained
When it comes to information being passed down from federal agencies like the National Security Agency, the FBI, or other federal law enforcement agencies, how that information was originally obtained becomes a question. In a 2013 article from Reuters, they exposed a practice of a special unit, comprised of members of the DEA, CIA, FBI, IRS, and DHS, sharing information with other law enforcement entities.
After sharing information the special unit obtained, they would instruct local law enforcement to “recreate” the investigative trail to obscure the way in which the investigation began. As a defense attorney, it is important to know how law enforcement and prosecutors obtain evidence being used against the defendant. Evidence obtained unlawfully can be suppressed, but only when an attorney can identify the unlawful means in which it was obtained.
Experienced Ohio Defense Attorney
These 80 fusion centers are not only storing data, but also exchanging information with federal law enforcement agencies making it nearly impossible for defense counsel to verify that evidence against their client was obtained lawfully. It is imperative that you are represented by an experienced attorney who knows how to spot every issue to be raised. Call attorney Joe Edwards at 614-309-0243 if you need an experienced criminal defense attorney.