The ACLU also highlights the role fusion centers—intelligence-collecting and -sharing hubs staffed by federal, state, and local government personnel and private contractors—play in creating powerful surveillance capabilities in states across the United States. Over the past year, the group has obtained fusion center reports from Virginia, Texas, Missouri, and Massachusetts it calls "troubling," because the documents cast suspicion on groups such as African Americans, Muslims, and militia members.
While the ACLU is clearly worried fusion center involvement in domestic spying, it does acknowledge that the federal government has made improvements to the fusion center model. In December, DHS issued new guidelines (.pdf) that mandate fusion centers certify civil liberty and privacy protections before receiving federal money.
(For more on fusion centers and civil liberties and privacy concerns, see "Civil Liberty Concerns Could Become a Factor in Grants to State Fusion Centers.")
Nevertheless, the ACLU argues that these varied government surveillance powers situated in different institutions continue to increase without oversight from elected legislatures or the public.
"The erosion of reasonable restrictions on government's power to collect people's personal information is putting the privacy and free speech rights of all Americans at risk," the ACLU says.
♦ Photo of Veterans for Peace protest by jenjoaquin/Flickr