Domestic security fusion centers draw fire

Programs generated ineffective intelligence reports and false leads, congressional probe finds.

A Homeland Security Department anti-terrorism initiative produced ineffective intelligence reports and generated false leads, a congressional investigation has found.

The nation's roughly 70 fusion centers, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, were run by state and city officials to help share information among all levels of government. A Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations report released Tuesday stated that "fusion centers often produced irrelevant, useless, or inappropriate intelligence reporting to DHS, and many produced no intelligence reporting whatsoever."

Nearly one-third of 610 reports generated during the 2009 to 2010 period studied by investigators weren’t shared. They often were too shoddy or violated civil liberty and privacy guidelines, the panel said. DHS has charged that the committee's investigation drew on old data and was flawed.

The agency was unable give any visibility into possible cost overruns. DHS officials said that the grant process is designed to be flexible and they don’t track how much they are funding the centers. The department told investigators that cost of the programs ran between $289 million and $1.4 billion.