Costly anti-terror effort gave little info: US Senate
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A multi-billion-dollar information-sharing program created in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 has improperly collected information about innocent Americans and produced little valuable intelligence on terrorism, a US Senate report concludes. It portrays an effort that ballooned far beyond anyone's ability to control.
What began as an attempt to put local, state and federal officials in the same room analysing the same intelligence has instead cost huge amounts of money for data-mining software, flat screen televisions and, in Arizona, two fully equipped Chevrolet Tahoes that are used for commuting, investigators found.
"The investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion center reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot," the report said.
When the program did address terrorism, it sometimes did so in ways that infringed on civil liberties. The fusion centers have made headlines for circulating information about the American Civil Liberties Union, activists on both sides of the abortion debate, war protesters and advocates of gun rights.
One fusion center cited in the Senate investigation wrote a report about a Muslim community group's list of book recommendations. Others discussed American citizens speaking at mosques or talking to Muslim groups about parenting.
The bipartisan report is a scathing evaluation of what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has held up as a crown jewel of its security efforts. The report underscores a reality of post-9/11 Washington: National security programs tend to grow, never shrink, even when their money and manpower far surpass the actual subject of terrorism.
A Senate Homeland Security sub-committee reviewed more than 600 unclassified reports over a one-year period and concluded that most had nothing to do with terrorism.
The reports contained no evidence of criminal activity. The government did not circulate them, but it kept them on government computers. "It was not clear why, if DHS had determined that the reports were improper to disseminate, the reports were proper to store indefinitely," the report said.
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