Fusion Center enables CIA to spy for, not on, Ohioans
Sunday, Oct. 07, 2007 at 11:09 AM
Ohioans should feel safer, for the 57-year old ban preventing the CIA from conducting domestic surveillance has ended. Retired CIA spymaster Charles "Charlie" Allen has reappeared as chief intelligence officer within the Department of Homeland Security and is deploying intelligence officers to newly created Fusion Centers (FCs) throughout the U.S. By the end of 2008, they will be operating in all 50 states.
Article published Oct 3, 2007
By Robert Morton
Allen, who spent 47 years collecting and analyzing foreign intelligence at the CIA, is using FCs to strengthen America's defense by meticulously sculpting our gravely inadequate homeland intelligence-gathering and sharing capacity into a well thought-out operation. FCs will enable Ohio and local authorities to detect and respond to terrorist stirs by leveraging national intelligence with teams of clandestine federal intelligence officers embedded locally, possibly in your neighborhood.
One already operates in Ohio.
Several years ago, Sen. Mike DeWine had requested a FC be positioned in our capital city. Allen sent his intelligence officers to meet with DeWine's senior aides and by March 2006, one was set up in Columbus.
As a member of the Association For Intelligence Officers (AFIO), I listened to Allen tell us that "there will be a two-way, robust sharing of information, although highly classified foreign and domestic intelligence will be sanitized through a Homeland Security Data Network (HSDN) before it's shared with the state/local powers that be."
Nationwide, $337 million has been spent for this transcybernet system and as chief intelligence officer, Allen is positioning his officers in each FC, thus enabling our intelligence community to share terrorist information with more than 600 state and local agencies. For example, say the National Security Agency (NSA) receives intelligence from a spy satellite that picked up a cell phone call made from someone in Akron to a suspected al-Qaida cell in Indonesia, that mentions Quaker Square and the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
On the ground in Indonesia, imagine a CIA case officer (CO) had previously recruited one of the suspected cell member's cousins to spy for the U.S. That's what CIA COs do.
Suppose that this recruited spy ("asset") uncovered in his cousin's home Akron city maps with Quaker Square and the hotel, with South Broadway, South Summit and East Bowery streets marked with words in Farsi, and turned them over to his CIA handler.
In this highly probable scenario, through the HSDN secure network, his already locally embedded federal intelligence officers in Columbus can instantly relay the information to Summit County and Akron authorities. These intel officers can tap into the staggering intelligence-gathering capabilities of the U.S. intelligence community (IC) and share it with Akron and Summit County authorities -- in real time. Sanitized, of course.
The HSDN system would transform the cloak-and-dagger, top secret particulars of this scenario into an unclassified product that would conceal the sources and methods used to acquire the intelligence, but still instantly tip off the local authorities on the essence of the looming threat. The lines between foreign and domestic intelligence have become blurred. Overseas threats that target our local communities are real in this new war on terrorism. The new terrorist cells are transnational and religiously driven, not disgruntled natives with local political ambitions.
Since 9-11, 3,300 al-Qaida operatives from 47 different countries have been arrested in nearly 100 countries. They're better financed from legal and illegal sources, better trained and aren't dependent upon or accountable to state sponsors the U.S. can threaten with mutually-assured destruction. Al-Qaida isn't interested in hijacking a plane and eventually releasing the passengers after obtaining publicity or negotiating at the table for some political cause: They aspire to blow up the plane and everyone sitting at the table, including themselves. Indeed, al-Qaida yearns for loss of American lives on a massive scale.
The "old" terrorists' weapons of choice -- small arms, plastique explosives and rocket-propelled grenades -- appear trite when our intelligence community has verified that al-Qaida has set its sights on acquiring and detonating nuclear, radiological, chemical or biological weapons inside America.
Decades ago, Charlie Allen learned the dire consequence of not rapidly sharing intelligence. In September 1984, a truck loaded with the equivalent of 200 kilograms of TNT smashed into the U.S. embassy in West Beirut. Previously, CIA satellite imagery analysts collected suspicious satellite photos taken over Bekaa Valley of the Sheikh Abdullah barracks, showing oil drums mimicking the layout of streets and concrete barriers in front of the U.S. embassy annex, along with tire tracks in the sand made from practice runs for suicide bombers preparing for actual attack.
Back then, Allen told Oliver North that the intelligence never made it up the chain of command and that the bombing could have been prevented. Allen's Fusion Centers, occupied by his intelligence officers and HSDN network, calls upon the U.S. intelligence community's global intelligence-gathering capability to support local communities.
Yes, a Fusion Center is operating in Ohio and Buckeye State residents should be glad it's close at hand.