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Fusion Centers Meet Important Privacy Milestone

All 71 fusion centers now have an approved privacy policy
By Mary Ellen Callahan, Chief Privacy Officer, DHS and Bart R. Johnson, Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis, DHS

State and major urban area fusion centers serve as focal points within the state and local environment for the receipt, analysis, gathering, and sharing of threat-related information between the federal government and state, local, tribal, territorial (SLTT) and private sector partners.

Located in states and major urban areas throughout the country, fusion centers are uniquely situated to empower front-line homeland security and law enforcement partners to understand local implications of national intelligence, thus enabling local officials to better protect their communities.

A Milestone for Privacy, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

Both fusion center directors and the federal government have identified the protection of privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties as a key priority and an important enabling capability to ensure fusion centers protect the legal rights of Americans while supporting homeland security efforts. It is critical that fusion center personnel not only receive training to understand the need to protect privacy, civil rights and civil liberties, but also have a policy in place clearly outlining how this will be achieved.

To help with these efforts, the DHS Privacy Office, working in collaboration with the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) and the Program Manager of the Information Sharing Environment, began an independent review in November 2009 of fusion center privacy policies. Today, we are pleased to announce that all 71 officially designated fusion centers have successfully completed this important step and received letters from the DHS Chief Privacy Officer stating that these policies have been determined to be at least as comprehensive as the Information Sharing Environment (ISE) Privacy Guidelines.

The completion of these privacy policies by all fusion centers is a milestone to support the sharing of terrorism and other homeland security information between the federal government and fusion centers during situations involving time-sensitive and emerging threats.

Protecting Privacy While Sharing Information

Established by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the ISE provides analysts, operators, and investigators with integrated and synthesized terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and homeland security information needed to enhance national security and help keep our people safe.

The law required the President to issue Guidelines to protect privacy and civil liberties. From this, the ISE Privacy Guidelines were established to help ensure that ISE sharing partners sufficiently protect Americans’ privacy and civil liberties while sharing important terrorism and homeland security information.

These guidelines require that ISE participants - such as the National Network of Fusion Centers - have a written privacy protection policy that is “at least as comprehensive” as the ISE Privacy Guidelines. For example, within each privacy policy, fusion centers must identify a privacy officer and clearly articulate the security measures in place to protect personally identifiable information.

Next Steps

The DHS Privacy Office remains engaged with the fusion centers as they work to implement their privacy policies. In partnership with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, I&A, and DOJ, we will continue to provide support to the National Network of Fusion Centers to help ensure that these policies are adhered to, as well as to provide customized privacy, civil liberties and civil rights training to those working in this arena including:

  1. DHS intelligence officers assigned to a fusion center;
  2. state and major urban area fusion center personnel; and
  3. individuals serving as the privacy officer in each fusion center.

More information:
Fusion center privacy policies
Read more on fusion centers
DHS Privacy Office website
Published by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Washington, D.C.
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