The center and its personnel are very aware of citizen suspicion of fusion centers. Some of this stems from mistakes made by other fusion centers that spied on peaceful protesters and dissidents, who had committed no crimes. “Some fusion centers did things that the CIAC would never do,” says Clem.
The CIAC’s fidelity to civil liberty policies and principles were recently tested when the Occupy Movement set up camp at Denver’s Civic Center Park. The Denver Police Department asked the CIAC what information it knew about the protesters. “That was a crossroads that we came to,” says Garcia, “Can we even look at the Occupy Denver movement?” The CIAC decided it couldn’t because protesters were simply exercising their constitutional right to free speech and assembly.
The CIAC’s good track record doesn’t mean rights violations couldn’t happen in the future. “We’re not immune to it,” says Wolfinbarger. What matters, he says, is that the CIAC remains transparent and accountable when mistakes are made.
One indicator that the CIAC has earned the trust and support of many Coloradans is the number of cases reported by the public that met CFR 28 Part 23 standards. In 2010, 95 cases came from the public, or 34 percent of all the cases retained that year.
At the heart of CIAC is the Terrorism Liaison Officer (TLO) program, says Garcia. The TLO is the local first responder within each stakeholder organization—whether law enforcement, public safety, or private sector—who is identified as “responsible for coordinating suspicious activity or criminal activity back to the fusion center,” he says . “They should also be that champion for the information-sharing network in their community.” Having that liaison within each partner organization helps to create the level of trust needed to have a true two-way information pipeline.
Garcia and Leffler took the TLO concept from the Arizona fusion center, but they added their own innovations. For example, they opened eligibility to all state first responders. “We were one of the few centers...that said we were going to incorporate non-law enforcement entities into the center. So from the beginning, we said that firefighters, emergency services workers, critical infrastructure sector owners—all have a role in homeland security, and we have to do this together,” says Leffler.
She adds that information relayed from a non-law-enforcement TLO is given the same regard as information from law enforcement. Indeed, the CIAC strives to release as many reports as possible under the For Official Use Only (FOUO) designation, which is less strict than the Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) designation. This, according to its 2010 Annual Report, “ensure[s] that the passage of intelligence is not limited to only law enforcement personnel or those holding a security clearance.”