The hearing entitled, Protecting National Security and Civil Liberties: Strategies for Terrorism Information Sharing, came on the heels of several controversial fusion center bulletins bolstering civil libertarians’ arguments that the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) and its national network of intelligence fusion centers are vulnerable to civil liberties abuses, such as unconstitutional police investigations of peaceful political and religious groups. In one case, the Maryland State Police investigated several non-violent antiwar and human rights groups, filed them as terrorist organizations, and transferred the data to a federal law enforcement database.
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The Charity and Security Network monitors U.S. and foreign government activities and a wide range of news sources to identify developments in national security policy that impact civil society and nonprofit organizations. We collect and disseminate relevant information on our website, via our Twitter and Facebook accounts, and through our biweekly email newsletter, which contains links to a variety of news articles. To read the most recent issues of our email newsletter or to subscribe, click here.
Our staff also creates news pieces on events and developments of particular interest to our members that are not covered in other news outlets. Those stories can be found below, in revese chronological order.
On April 15, 2009, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano responded to criticism from lawmakers, conservatives and veterans groups about a leaked unclassified intelligence assessment warning national law enforcement agencies about ongoing political and social conditions that could trigger "rightwing" extremism. In a released statement, she denied the DHS targets anyone based on political ideology. The report said returning veterans joining militias "could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups."
Months of deteriorating relationships between the FBI and major American Muslim organizations came to a head when revelations of a FBI informant posing as a convert in mosques became public in February 2009. The incident, combined with the FBI's disengagement from communications with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), has lead several American Muslim advocacy groups to consider a suspension of ongoing outreach with the FBI. The growing tension was raised during a Senate hearing where FBI Director Robert Mueller was questioned about the Bureau's conduct about investigating Muslim organizations.
A Congressional hearing on fusion centers (state-based information sharing collaborations between federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies) heard several witnesses who acknowledged that privacy and civil liberties problems in fusion center operations must be addressed. One witness said these problems are so severe that the fusion centers should be closed. On the same day, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called on DHS to probe five fusion center investigations involving free speech activities of advocacy and religious groups.
Responding to the outcry over covert police surveillance of peaceful activists' meetings, Maryland lawmakers voted on March 24, 2009 in favor of a bill to protect residents from having authorities violate their First Amendment rights. The House of Delegates and Senate approved similar bills and Governor Martin O'Malley has expressed his commitment to signing the legislation into law.