NEWS

Fusion Centers and SARs Will Help Disrupt Homegrown Terrorists, Says Napolitano

By Matthew Harwood

The Department of Homeland Security will continue to strengthen its support for state-based intelligence fusion centers and suspicious activity reporting to combat the escalating threat of homegrown terrorism, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told a Senate committee yesterday.

Napolitano called fusion centers the "heart" of her department's strategy to protect the American people from homegrown terrorists. Since 9-11, 72 fusion centers have been established across cities and states nationwide to collect, vet, and share information with local first responders on the ground and federal law enforcement and intelligence officials at the national level.

"My goal is to make every fusion center a center of analytic excellence that provides useful, actionable information about threats to [state, local, tribal, and territorial] law enforcement and first responders," Napolitano told the Senate Homeland Security Committee (.pdf). To do this, DHS has deployed 64 DHS intelligence officers nationwide and made fusion centers a priority for federal homeland security grants. Fusion center personnel with the appropriate federal security clearances are also given access to the Homeland Security Data Network, which stores classified homeland security threat information.

Napolitano also noted that DHS is working with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to expand  the Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative into a national resource by the end of 2011. "The SAR Initiative creates a standard process for law enforcement in more than two dozen states and cities to identify and report suspicious incidents or behaviors associated with specific threats or terrorism," she explained. Once collected, suspicious activity reports from around the country can be analyzed to identify broader trends involving terrorist activity.

According to Napolitano, the SAR Initiative "makes first responders first preventers, as well."

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