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Tucked away in a rented room at the Collin County Sheriff's office is a computer operation called the North Central Texas Fusion System.
According to its website, "The Fusion System is a data sharing and analysis system primarily focused on the prevention and early warning of natural, accidental and intentional disasters. The Fusion System is also used to support emergency responses, field operations, and investigations."
One of about 58 Fusion Centers nationwide, the NTFC is envisioned as a response to the call for better sharing of information and communications between different law enforcement agencies and first responders in the wake of the 911 terrorist attack.
The computers at the NCTFS are designed to not only share law enforcement and weather data, but to merge thousands of public, government and commercial databases into a tool that can, "detect and graphically display relationships between people, places, and events". In other words, to connect the dots on both demographic trends as well as on an individual's movements and communications.
The NCTFS publishes a weekly newsletter, the "Prevention Awareness Bulletin". According to the Fusion Center, it is distributed to over 1,500 individuals from over 200 different agencies.
Last week's Prevention Awareness Bulletin included a story titled, "Middle Eastern Terrorist groups and their supporting organizations have been successful in gaining support for Islamic goals in the United States and providing an environment for terrorist organizations to flourish."
The article warned law enforcement agencies to be "aware of and report" the legal activities of legal Muslim organizations under the pretext that these groups are lobbying to turn, "public and political support towards radical goals such as Shariah law and support of terrorist military action against Western nations."
It's unbelievable that a government financed intelligence operation is asking the police to report perfectly legal political activities of American citizens.
The article weaves together a few facts and internet rumors to paint a picture of a American Muslim goal to replace Christianity with Islam. In one case it quotes Omar Ahmad, a founder of The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) as telling a San Ramon Valley Herald reporter, "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant. The Koran should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth."
CAIR and Ahmad deny he ever made the statement.
The newsletter article then uses that quote to infer a conspiracy to dominate American culture with, "Taken in that context, pushing an aggressive, pro-Islam agenda that's been increasingly successful in recent years takes on a new light". There follows such Islamic "agenda items" as foot baths in the cab drivers break room at an airport in Indiana.
In one paragraph the Fusion Center even accuses the United States Treasury Department with complicity by hosting a conference on the use of Shariah economic doctrine.
The article makes no real charge of terrorist activity by any mainstream Muslim organization, instead it fans the flames of Islamophobia by casting a very wide net of innuendo over the legitimate political activities of Americans who practice Islam. Terrorism is not a Christian vs Muslim battle, and attempts to fuel such fears lead only to prejudice, hate and fear.
Is the Fusion Center using huge computer systems teamed up with an intelligence network that has no real oversight to monitor protected political lobbying? It would seem so.
The implications for our American freedoms are chilling. Americans rightly cherish their liberty and their rights of religion, speech and to petition their government.
The article ends with a list of hyperlinked footnotes. Almost all links lead to far right wing anti-Muslim or neo-con activist sites. None are to official government agencies, which casts a real doubt on the validity of the intelligence gathering abilities of not only the newsletter, but the Fusion Center itself.
The Prevention Awareness Bulletin, NCTFS Feb. 19, 2009
North Central Texas Fusion System homepage
Fusion Center Guidelines, US Justice Department, Aug. 2006
Fusion Centers: Issues and Options for Congress, Congressional Research Service, Jan. 2008
Centers Tap Into Personal Databases, Apr. 2008, The Washington Post
Narrowing the Focus, Texas Technology, Sept. 2007
Information Fusion Centers and Privacy, EPIC, Jun. 2008
What's wrong with Fusion Centers, ACLU, Dec. 2007
Fusion Centers in Texas: "What we have here is a failure to communicate", Grits for Breakfast, Jul, 2007
Fusion centers' might be scary if they actually work, Grits for Breakfast, Apr. 2008
Four potential risks to intelligence fusion centers, Homeland Stupidity, Jul. 2007
CCO Coverage of Fusion Center:
County pays ADB over $1.1 million in no-bid Fusion Center contracts, CCO, Dec. 2008
Commissioners to consider "no bid" contract for Fusion Center, CCO, Dec. 2008
Code Red: better late than never - or is it?, CCO, Apr. 2008
That being said, I am a firm believer that when it comes to choosing between potential safety and liberty, that liberty should always prevail. I am concerned that it seems the idea of reasonable suspicion and probable cause have yielded to whims and guesses.
It further disturbs me that, yet again, Congressman Johnson's fammily is affecting not only our tax dollars, but also the way in which our local law enforcement conducts its affairs.
I personally would much rather sleep at night knowing the police won't come barging in unless I call them than wondering if I'm on their 'list' and they are watching out for me whether I know it or not.
It is a fact
I would hope that those who comment here would offer some argument or evidence to back up their assertions.
"Its a fact" adds nothing to bolster what amounts to just name calling.
In a follow-up note to their article the Texas Observer noted:
Ben Franklin is rolling in his grave.
"Anyone who would sacrifice a little liberty for safety, deserves neither liberty nor safety."
Moreover, many economist todays has started to consider Sharia Economics as an alternative esp after the recession. Let's take a look at its bright side as a way to recover from the recession.
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