Policy Forum

Fusion Centers: Domestic Spying or Sensible Surveillance?

June 11, 2009 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM EDT

Auditorium/Wintergarden

Featuring Bruce Fein, Constitutional Attorney, The Lichfield Group; Harvey Eisenberg, Chief, National Security Section, Office of United States Attorney, District of Maryland; and Michael German, Policy Counsel, American Civil Liberties Union. Moderated by Tim Lynch, Director, Project on Criminal Justice, Cato Institute.

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Police departments across the country are starting to create networks of databases called “fusion centers” in an effort to detect and prevent acts of terrorism. The ultimate objective is to create a nationwide reporting system of suspicious behaviors so that the authorities can “connect the dots” before an attack can occur. Civil liberties groups claim these fusion centers are beset with legal and practical problems. One legal problem is that the police should not be opening files on people because they exercised their right to free speech, such as demonstrating against the foreign policies of the United States. One practical problem is that the police are gathering so much mundane information that practically anyone could end up on a list of “suspicious” persons because some official arbitrarily decided to fill out a tip sheet. Join us for a discussion of the pros and cons of this newly proposed system of policing.