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People of Maine at Forefront of Battle to Keep Government Security Apparatus in Check

by Douglas Ankney

The people of Maine have made a bold step in corralling the “unaccountable power of fusion centers” with the passage of HP 947, An Act to Increase the Transparency and Accountability of the Main Information and Analysis Center. The Main Information and Analysis Center (“MIAC”) is one of at least 78 “fusion centers” across America characterized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation as “yet another cog in the surveillance state.”

Created by the Department of Homeland Security in the post-9/11 government-induced, media-hyped hysteria surrounding the “War on Terror,” fusion centers were designed to coordinate surveillance activities and share information “between federal law enforcement, the national security surveillance apparatus, and local and state police, with little to no oversight.” But as is often the case with government entities acting independently of oversight, the result is far and away from the intended purpose. In his book Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision, scholar Brendan McQuade writes:

“On paper, fusion centers have the potential to organize dramatic surveillance powers. In practice, however, what happens at fusion centers is circumscribed by the politics of law enforcement. The tremendous resources being invested in counterterrorism and the formation of interagency intelligence centers are complicated by organization complexity and jurisdictional rivalries. The result is not a revolutionary shift in policing but the creation of uneven, conflictive, and often dysfunctional intelligence-sharing systems.”

A 2023 report from Rutgers University’s Center for Security, Race, and Rights revealed that New Jersey’s fusion center used national security powers to spy “almost exclusively on Muslim, Arab, and Black communities and push an already racially biased criminal justice system into overdrive through aggressive enforcement of misdemeanor and quality of life offenses.” (Do we really want the CIA investigating underage tobacco usage?)

In another instance, MIAC helped disseminate the false narrative that stacks of bricks and stones had been strategically placed for “destructive use” by protesters during marches organized by Black Lives Matter. This “fake news” was used by police in its “planned response.” HP 947 created an Auditor position within the Attorney General’s Office whose responsibilities include conducting regular audits of the MIAC’s activities, keeping records, and sharing information with the public. HP 947 also requires information MIAC shares with private entities to be recorded and subject to access by the public.

When it comes to oversight of fusion centers, Maine is living up to its state motto “Dirigo,” which means “I lead.”  

Source: eff.org

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