Thursday, March 19, 2009

And what about the fusion center in Delaware?

Unlike the Missouri Information Anaylysis Center, the Delaware fusion center (Delaware Information Analysis Center) flies mostly below the public radar. Since opening in late 2005, news stories about DIAC have been sparse, partly because investigative reporting in the First State is a non sequiteur, and partly because Captain William Harris (who oversees the center) is a bright guy who understands that it is in his best interest to operate quietly.

Harris did make one interesting comment in the only News Journal story to appear on DIAC, back in May 2007:

The facility, known as the DIAC, opened in December 2005 with help from a $925,000 grant from the federal Department of Homeland Security to buy high-powered computers, software and other equipment. It is overseen by Delaware State Police Capt. Bill Harris, who asked that its exact location, somewhere between Dover and Smyrna, not be disclosed....

"The fusion process is to take law enforcement information and other information -- it could be from the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Transportation, the private sector -- and fuse it together to look for anomalies and push information out to our stakeholders in Delaware who have both a right and a need to know," Harris said....

Access to those other data sources is limited only by cost and privacy laws, Harris said.

"I don't want to say it's unlimited, but the ceiling is very high," he said. "When we have the money, we'll start going to those other agencies and say, 'Are you willing to share that database and what would it cost?' "

An ACLU study picked up this comment, noting that

Rather than being constrained by the law regarding what they can collect, Capt. Harris appeared to feel constrained only by resources.

While the idea that fusion centers are, in effect, purchasing databases from other agencies is disquieting, I have to say in all honesty that I think the ACLU here reads more into Harris's comment than is there. I've met Captain Harris, sat in several meetings with him, and heard him present to his peers. He is a very intense guy, very focused on his mission, but in virtually every conversation I've heard him express the idea that whatever his center does has to be done within the law.

OK that--but there's still a problem.

I may trust Bill Harris, but I shouldn't have to. By that I mean that civil liberties protections restricting what fusion centers can do need to be thoroughly spelled out by law and enforced by independent oversight, rather than dependent on the quality of the individual who runs them.

As there is in some states, Delaware needs laws that allow me to find out what information the fusion center has developed on me, and to challenge the accuracy or the need for that information.

We also need accoutability regarding the agencies with whom the DIAC shares its information.

As I noted in a previous post, the Missouri Information Analysis Center has the Missouri Department of Revenue as one of it major clients. Does Delaware also hand over its info to tax collectors? Good question--no answer available.

We know from the Delaware State Police website that DIAC provides information to private sector entities:

In 2007, the Delaware Information and Analysis Center (DIAC) matured greatly as Delaware's State Fusion Center. In only its second full year as Delaware's fusion center, DIAC has become an integral part of Delaware's criminal intelligence, criminal investigation and information sharing mission. The DIAC has enhanced its main focus on terrorism prevention and moved towards an "all crimes, all hazards" concept. The DIAC gathers information from law enforcement, other public and governmental entities, and the private sector, fuses the information together and puts it back out for use by the various decision makers and leaders in Delaware who have the need and right to know. Armed with credible intelligence and information provided by the DIAC, Delaware's leaders in government, law enforcement, emergency services and the private sector are better able coordinate and protect the citizens, property, and business interests of all Delawareans.

What private sector entities, what kind of information, at what cost, and with what restrictions on that information's use?

There's also the question of DIAC's location. The Missouri center may produce controversial reports, but at least it has its own website that includes full contact information--including telephone numbers and a street address. Captain Harris's intent to avoid revealing the location of DIAC is understandable but unacceptable in a free society.

Likewise, DIAC needs something else it is lacking: a clearly identifiable line in the State budget, so that we can see exactly what we're spending.

In short, after being given a free pass for the first three years of its operation, DIAC needs a little public attention.

1 comment:

muebles en almeria said...

It won't truly have success, I suppose this way.