NEWS

Iowa Fusion Center Posts Informational Videos on Its Mission and Activities

By Matthew Harwood

Iowa's Department of Public Safety has publicly posted two videos outlining how state and local intelligence fusion centers collect and share information for homeland security purposes.

The videos were put up on the state Intelligence Fusion Center's Web page for public educational purposes, said Special Agent-in-Charge Steve Ponsetto.

Fusion centers combine federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to collect, analyze, and produce intelligence products relating to criminal and terrorist activity. There are currently 72 Department of Homeland Security (DHS)-recognized fusion centers operating across the United States. Since taking office, the Obama administration has been aggressive in touting its support to state and local fusion centers and heralding their ability to detect and disrupt terrorist attacks.

The first video, produced by DHS and running about 3 minutes, gives a broad overview of how fusion centers promote homeland security. "Initiated by state and local governments, fusion centers are now vital assets in our collective homeland security efforts," the video says, adding."Our diverse network includes DHS and FBI personnel working with state and local analysts in fusion centers around the country."

According to the video, fusion centers help connect the homeland security community—"law enforcement; firefighters; pubic health and safety personnel; and federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government leaders"—together  to disrupt terrorism and to combat other hazards such as disease, cyberattacks, drug trafficking, and gang activity.

The second, longer video addresses Iowa's fusion center and information-sharing network. The video prominently leads off by asserting that Iowa's fusion center respects civil liberties and the U.S. Constitution.

"As public officials in Iowa," says Russel M. Porter, state director of Iowa's fusion center, "we take an oath to support and uphold the Constitution and we embrace our state's motto, 'Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.'"

Fusion centers have been roundly criticized by civil libertarians from both sides of left-right divide as a dangerous precursor of a police state. (For more on fusion centers and civil liberty issues, see "Fusion Centers Forge Ahead" from the Oct. 2009 issue, and "Civil Liberty Concerns Could Become a Factor in Grants to State Fusion Centers.")

Porter and a cast of government security officials, however, go on to explain that fusion centers are also a vital tool for protecting the state's citizens and critical infrastructure from all types of disasters, natural and man-made.

"Collaborating with the state of Iowa Intelligence Fusion Center gives us the ability to utilize an effective network of agencies that aid in the response to a multitude of hazards that impact Iowa's infrastructure and citizens," Joyce Flinn, bureau chief of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says in the video.

Fusion centers create a "seamless web of security and open-ended information sharing" between the local, state, and federal government, according to Tom Riggs, a senior DHS intelligence officer.

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