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The Lawfare Podcast: Lifting the Veil on Fusion Centers

Jen Patja, Saraphin Dhanani, Michael German, Thomas Warrick
Thursday, January 19, 2023, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
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In the wake of September 11, 2001, federal law enforcement agencies were caught flatfooted when they realized that they'd had the intel to prevent the attack on the homeland, but they'd failed to connect those dots. Fusion centers were born out of an abundance of caution to share and streamline counterterrorism information between the federal level and state and local levels. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security has supported the development of a national network of 80 fusion centers across the United States. And while its principle goal initially was to disseminate counterterrorism intel from the state and local levels, it's now expanded to include the sharing of intelligence regarding crimes or hazards more broadly. 

Last month, the Brennan Center released a report entitled, “Ending Fusion Center Abuses,” explaining how fusion centers’ domestic intelligence model has undermined American's privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. Lawfare legal fellow Saraphin Dhanani sat down with Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program, who co-authored the report, as well as Thomas Warrick, a non-resident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security Forward Defense Practice at the Atlantic Council. They discussed how fusion centers were conceived, where they've excelled as intelligence centers, and where they've abused their powers.


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Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Saraphin Dhanani is the Legal Fellow at the Lawfare Institute. She previously worked at the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Ambassador for Human Rights and in the Markets Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. She holds a B.A. from Wellesley College, where she was a Fellow and Ambassador at the Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute, and a J.D. from Stanford Law School, where she was the Senior Articles Editor of the Stanford Law Review.
Michael German is a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program.
Thomas Warrick is a non-resident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security Forward Defense Practice at the Atlantic Council.

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