“Homeland security begins with hometown security, and fusion centers play a vital role in keeping communities safe all across America,” homeland security commandant Janet Napolitano said at the government-sponsored National Fusion Center Training Event held in Phoenix, Arizona last week.
Amid controversy over the federal government’s spending on lavish conferences (hence the rapid deployment of the name training event), Napolitano’s obsession with making all of America snitches under her See Something, Say Something campaign, continued controversy over ICE’s secure communities program, and even speculation that the former Arizona governor will step down if Obama wins a second term, no one actually paid attention to the Secretary’s central message.
The “war” on terror, the one over there that was supposed to have been a magnet for terrorists so that American itself would be safe, shows no sign of either ultimate success or conclusion, and it is turning these United States into an even greater battlefield.
Napolitano even says that the threat of home-grown terrorism is “increasing,” and she anchors federal government strategy to turn state-level fusion centers as increasingly essential links between local law enforcement and the Washington intelligence machine.
I know that Napolitano’s piece of this forever war is the homeland, but who would have thought that eleven years after 9/11, some federal government official could stand up before 600 state and local government intelligence officers cheering them on, and it’s a non-story?
To be fair to the locals, fusion centers represent not just threat early warning; they are also federal support at a time when police budgets are declining, they are a seat at the information table, and they are a new and exotic career pursuit, one that promises the big times. Under the rubric of “all hazards” most fusion centers admittedly focus more on everyday crime.” But the funding, and the push, is all about terrorism, and the justification, is that there are an abundance of terrorists in our midst.
Terrorists are “not just those coming from abroad we’re concerned about, it’s those that are U.S. citizens – that are home grown, that are right here,” Napolitano declares.
“It can be people who are right here and who we don’t have much knowledge about,” Napolitano said.
Not knowing much about them of course means information collection, Internet stalking, surveillance, even reconnaissance drones at the local level.
Ron Brooks, chairman of the Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council and a San Francisco-area fusion center official told the Arizona Republic: “We’re worried about the al-Qaida attack, the self-radicalized homegrown extremism attack, the far-right violence, but we’re also worried about everyday crime that impacts our community.”
Brooks says a lot of work needs to be done to educate people about what to look for in their search for the home-grown. “There are times when we get suspicious activity reported to us by law enforcement or the public, and it really is about how someone is dressing or talking or worshiping, and we push that back and say, ‘That’s not appropriate’…” he says.
But fear not, civil liberties and privacy is all being taken care of: as Napolitano says, there’s an organization at homeland security responsible for it.
And See Something, Say Something is working, according to Napolitano, because the campaign has recently expanded to include partnerships with sports teams, sports leagues, transportation agencies and colleges and universities. Hooray!
Putting aside my view that there shouldn’t even be something called homeland security – it’s just law enforcement at home, not national security – is Napolitano right that homeland security begins with hometown security? Are the states even intended to be so intimately involved in national security in the first place? Isn’t that the fundamental role of the federal government? The United States has transformed, and we are less secure, and what’s the news? How much money some agency spends on conferences or the fact that sports leagues are now part of the homeland security reserves…