Friday, July 1, 2016


   In the U.S., over 854,000 people hold top-secret security clearances and 33 building complexes, each the size of three Pentagons, conduct top-secret work in and around the D.C. Beltway. Lockheed Martin landed a huge contract to develop the FBI's billion-dollar Next-Generation Identification (NGI) system, which includes 3-D facial recognition modeling enabling experts to construct a subject's entire face from partial video footage.
     The Dept. of Homeland Security and the 17 agencies comprising the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) have access to this NGI database. I'm glad they do, for I believe the I.C. is not spying ON's spying FOR them. Fortunately, we also have Fusion Centers set up in all 50 states and they have access to 240 state, regional, and federal agencies and their databases. They can monitor surveillance systems, intersections, thoroughfares, and parking lots across America.

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     For example, FC's monitor Chicago's hi-tech infrared surveillance cameras, which store video feeds for over a dozen years and are set up every mile along the Windy City's freeway system. I came across other FC's in my OSINT research that have access to hundreds of private security cameras in railroad yards, trucking sites, sports arenas, office buildings, shopping malls, large retail stores, and warehouses. The NSA and CIA can access these FC databases and I'm glad the can.
     I feel this increased security to protect us from radical Islam and domestic terrorism is needed. Others feel Fusion Centers are akin to Big Brother encroaching on our personal privacy. A compromise can, and should, be reached by insuring these security measures have proper oversight and monitoring. The bottom line is: Americans need to feel safer. You may like to read Issue 7/01/16 "Spy Agency Happenings!" newsletter, which focuses on domestic spying inside America.
     The 60-year old ban preventing the CIA from conducting domestic surveillance has, to some extent, ended with the establishment of Fusion Centers. Ten years ago, retired CIA spymaster Charles “Charlie” Allen, now in his octogenarian years, reappeared as Chief Intelligence Officer (at age 74) within the Department of Homeland Security and deployed intelligence officers to newly-created Fusion Centers (FC’s) throughout the U.S.
     Allen, who spent 47 years collecting and analyzing foreign intelligence at the CIA, is using FC’s to strengthen America’s homeland security by meticulously sculpting our gravely inadequate homeland intelligence-gathering and sharing capacity into a well thought-out operation. FC’s enable authorities at the state, county and city level to detect and respond to terrorist schemes by leveraging national intelligence with teams of clandestine federal intelligence officers embedded locally in FC's throughout America.
     A decade ago, as a member of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO), I attended a seminar in Tysons Corner, VA where Allen was the key speaker. He announced that by the end of 2008, FC’s will be positioned in all 50 states (Statement made 2006). At this juncture, the CIA and NSA became increasingly involved in domestic spying within the U.S., for two-way, robust sharing of information between overseas counter-intelligence (CI) agencies and domestic law enforcement (LE) happened inside America.
     However, highly-classified foreign and domestic intelligence collected by CI agencies is sanitized through a Homeland Security Data Network (HSDN) before it’s shared with domestic federal/state/local LE.
     In 2006, America spent $337 million for this trans-cybernet HSDN system and Chief Intelligence Officer Allen began positioning CI officers in each FC. The move enabled the CIA and NSA to share overseas terrorist information with over 600 state and local agencies.
     I offer this scenario, which illustrates the critical role FC's play in protecting Americans:
     My story begins when the National Security Agency (NSA) receives intelligence from a spy satellite that picked up a cell phone call made from someone in Los Angeles to a suspected al Qaeda cell in Yemen. It mentioned Dodger Stadium.
     On the ground in Yemen, a CIA Case Officer (CO) had previously recruited one of the suspected cell member’s cousins to spy for the U.S. Suppose that this recruited spy (“asset”) uncovered in his cousin’s home a map of Dodger Stadium and surrounding streets marked off with words in Farsi, and turned it over to his CIA handler.
     In this highly-plausible scenario, through the HSDN secure network, the locally-embedded CIA officers working at the L.A. Fusion Center would be alerted and instantly tap into their underground workstation supercomputers. They would penetrate the secured IC terminals and pull together the staggering intelligence-gathering capabilities of the U.S. intelligence community, then share it with Los Angeles and state authorities- in real time, sanitized, of course.
     The HSDN system would transform the cloak-and-dagger, top secret particulars of this scenario into an unclassified product that would conceal the sources and methods used to acquire the overseas intelligence, but still instantly tip off state and local authorities on the essence of the looming threat. I call this spying FOR America, not ON America.
     We need these locally-embedded FC’s because the lines between foreign and domestic intelligence have become blurred. Overseas threats that target our local communities are real in this new war on terrorism where terrorist cells are transnational and religiously driven.
     Ever since radical Islamist cells have moved into the heartlands of Europe, the UK and the U.S., I've wanted counterintelligence agencies such as the CIA and NSA to "move in" with them. Law enforcement (LE) agencies, like the FBI, are simply spread too thin. They need help!
     Since 9/11, over 4,000 al Qaeda radical jihadist operating in 47 different countries have been arrested in nearly 100 other countries. ISIS has dispersed equally as far and wide. Radical Islamic terrorist cells are becoming better financed from legal and illegal sources, better trained, and are not dependent upon or accountable to state sponsors to whom the U.S. can threaten with mutually-assured destruction.
     They all yearn for loss of American and European lives on a massive scale. We see the Paris, Istanbul airport, San Bernardino, and other attacks carried out with small arms, plastique explosives, and rocket-propelled grenades. However, the U.S. intelligence community has verified that al Qaeda and ISIS have set their sights on acquiring and detonating nuclear, radiological, chemical and/or biological weapons inside America.
     I'm glad that CIA and other intelligence community officers are spying inside America via the HSDN network. The U.S. Intelligence Community’s global intelligence-gathering capabilities are better supporting local law enforcement and local communities.
     A Fusion Center is no doubt operating close to you. Be glad they’re close-at-hand.

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes  the online spy series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean." Contact him on the Secure Contact Form

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