THE MAGAZINE

Information Sharing Through Fusion Centers

By Eric Grasser, former assistant editor

When Massachusetts opened its Fusion Center in October 2004, it became the seventh state to set up this type of information-sharing facility, intended to improve cooperation among federal, state and local agency personnel in the state. Major Robert Smith, deputy commander in the Massachusetts State Police, talked with Security Management about information sharing. Following are highlights from the conversation. (His remarks have been paraphrased to accommodate the magazine’s space limitations.)

SM: What is the primary mission of the center?

Smith: The central mission of the fusion center is to gather and blend information from an array of sources to identify patterns or trends that are indicative of an emerging problem. It could be a crime problem, health, quality of life, or terrorism.

SM: What are the operational capabilities?

Smith: We have 18 analysts and 23 intelligence officers. They are primarily civilian intelligence analysts, supplemented with a couple of sworn personnel who act as supervisors.

We’ve done an annual statewide threat and vulnerability assessment and are coordinating our activities with other state entities, like the Department of Fire Services, the National Guard, and Department of Public Health.

 SM: What software technologies are used in the center?

Smith: We have some off-the-shelf analysis programs like i2 and XAnalysis. We have invested heavily in geographic information systems (GIS) and are using ArcGIS as our solution. GIS and ArcGIS are mapping systems used for investigative purposes.

We recently signed a contract with Raytheon to develop an intelligence management computer application so that we can share information in a secure format and reach out to all the different partners at the different levels. That implementation might take from 12 to 18 months to make sure everyone’s privacy rights are protected.

SM: What type of intelligence and information-gathering capabilities will be used?

Smith: We’re just trying to get better at the criminal analysis with subject matter experts from various fields. We’ll be able to come across different types of crime like credit card fraud, narcotics trafficking, or identity theft that could be indicative of some sort of terrorist connection. Obviously, if we came across any relevant information, we’d forward that information over to the Joint Terrorism Task Force for further investigation. 

—By Eric Grasser, former assistant editor

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