Tags: War on Terrorism | Homeland Security | Immigration | security | fusion | centers | sheriff

The Secret Centers That Help Keep America Safe

Thursday, 23 February 2012 03:41 PM

A little-known government network of data-collecting hubs throughout the United States protects everyday Americans from potential terroristic threats and provides life-saving information during man-made or natural disasters.

The hubs, which are under the umbrella of Homeland Security, are called “fusion centers,” in line with their task of fusing information from several agencies together to help spot a threatening situation and speed assistance to those affected. Fusion centers have been critical in countering terrorist attacks, including the attempted Times Square bombing of 2010 and the New York subway bomb plot of 2009

One center is located in South Florida, under the jurisdiction of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

Like other such operations across the nation, the Palm Beach Regional Fusion Center can monitor, analyze, and share information to help combat not only terrorism but also crime. In the center, staffers from federal and local agencies — together with high-tech analytical programs — continually monitor a wall of video screens that display live feeds from radar and satellite, from cameras at certain road intersections and installations of interest, and from cameras sweeping the extensive Florida Atlantic coastline.

During an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw, the man responsible for bringing the fusion center to South Florida, explained how his center helps keep not only South Florida but also the nation safe.

“Fusion centers basically take information, depending on what the hazard is, into the center,” Bradshaw said. “They analyze things that need to be analyzed, and they get the information out to the people that are on the road, the boots on the ground, that are handling the incident. It could be a hurricane. It could be some other type of manmade disaster. It could be a plane crash. It could be a terrorist event.”

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More than 70 fusion centers are placed strategically around the country. The centers can share information with other state and local law enforcement agencies, the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI, Bradshaw said. They also have bomb-proof communications rooms so the centers can never go silent.

“Until this virtual fusion center came into place, it was very difficult for an agency to share information with another agency,” the sheriff said. “Even if you had the willingness to share — even if you wanted to share — there was not a platform or a mechanism for you to share information or pictures.

“Fifteen years ago, you’d have to make a copy of that and give them a copy of it. Five years ago, you’d have to shoot it by email. Now we have this platform that we can put everything we need on one particular site. Our partners can access that same information simultaneously.”

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Maj. Karl Durr wouldn’t reveal the specific nature of a recent use of the fusion center’s information gathering, but he spoke about an incident that involved a stolen box truck and national security. Box trucks are perfect weapons for would-be terrorists.

“We had information of a stolen box truck. The fusion center said, ‘Hey, let’s pass this along because just in case the worst-case scenario happens, we want people to have this information.’ We pass along that information and the next thing you know . . . nationally . . . a lot of box trucks are getting pushed up to the national operations center . . . so this one small area was able to contribute to the bigger pictures. And that keeps us all safe.”

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Thursday, 23 February 2012 03:41 PM
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