ACLU Brought Controversial Report to Public’s Attention and Called for ReviewRichmond , VA – Following efforts by the ACLU of Virginia to expose a controversial report assessing the threat of terrorism in Virginia, Governor Tim Kaine has announced that he will investigate the secretive Virginia Fusion Center, which produced the document.
The ACLU, which brought the report to the public’s attention several weeks ago and recently urged government officials to investigate the Fusion Center, had criticized the report for exaggerating the threat of terrorism in Virginia and using baseless generalizations to connect racial minorities, college students, and religious organizations with threats of terrorism in the state.
“We are pleased the Governor has taken action to investigate this travesty of a report on terrorism in Virginia,” said ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Kent Willis. “If we were to believe this report, there are more than 50 dangerous extremist groups operating in Virginia, there were 400 encounters with al-Qa’ida in the state in 2007, and anywhere you find historically black colleges the threat of terrorism is heightened.”
“The Virginia General Assembly created the Virginia Fusion Center and is responsible for its oversight,” said Willis. “Not only should the Governor be launching an investigation, but every legislator should read this report and start thinking about how to revise the laws governing how the Center operates and how to make it more accountable to the public.”
“The bottom line,” Willis added, “is that this report encourages law enforcement officials to spy on individuals and organizations that are doing nothing more than exercising their constitutional rights of free expression and association. It undermines everything the First Amendment stands for.”
The federal government has facilitated the growth of a network of fusion centers since 9/11 to expand information collection and sharing practices among law enforcement agencies, the private sector and the intelligence community. The Department of Homeland Security says that as of February 2009 there are 58 fusion centers in the United States.
The Virginia Fusion Center report, “2009 Virginia Terrorism Threat Assessment” (labeled “Virginia 2009 Terrorism Assessment LE Sensitive”) is located at: http://cryptome.info/cryptout.htm.
To read the ACLU of Virginia’s analysis of the Virginia Fusion Center’s Report, go to: www.acluva.org/publications/VAFusionCenterSummary2009.pdf.
To read the ACLU’s report on fusion centers, go to: www.aclu.org/fusion.
Contact: Kent Willis, Executive Director, 804-644-8022