A leaked trove consisting of hundreds of gigabytes of law enforcement files and internal communication documents confirms the intertwined nature of local, state and federal policing and the extensive data-sharing between these various agencies.
The hacked files reportedly came from Anonymous. Distributed Denial of Secrets (DDoSecrets) published that 269-gigabyte collection that includes emails, memos, videos, audio files and law enforcement documents. In a tweet, DDoSecrets said the trove included “ten years of data from over 200 police departments, fusion centers and other law enforcement training and support resources,”. The searchable database contains over 1 million files.
DDoSecrets cofounder Emma Best told WIRED that it was “the largest published hack of American law enforcement agencies.”
“It provides the closest inside look at the state, local, and federal agencies tasked with protecting the public, including [the] government response to COVID and the BLM protests.”
According to a memo from the National Fusion Center Association (NFCA) obtained by KrebsonSecurity, “Preliminary analysis of the data contained in this leak suggests that Netsential, a web services company used by multiple fusion centers, law enforcement, and other government agencies across the United States, was the source of the compromise,”
According to WIRED, it appears much of the data came from intelligence fusion centers including the Missouri Information Analysis Center, the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, the Joint Regional Intelligence Center, the Delaware Information and Analysis Center, and the Austin Regional Intelligence Center.
For years, we have speculated that fusion centers and the broader “Information Sharing Environment (ISE)” form a part of a massive nationalized network of information and data that local state and federal law enforcement agencies can tap into.
Fusion centers were sold as a tool to combat terrorism, but that is not how they are being used. The ACLU pointed to a bipartisan congressional report to demonstrate the true nature of government fusion centers: “They haven’t contributed anything meaningful to counterterrorism efforts. Instead, they have largely served as police surveillance and information sharing nodes for law enforcement efforts targeting the frequent subjects of police attention: Black and brown people, immigrants, dissidents, and the poor.”
Fusion centers operate within the broader ISE. According to its website, the ISE “provides analysts, operators, and investigators with information needed to enhance national security. These analysts, operators, and investigators…have mission needs to collaborate and share information with each other and with private sector partners and our foreign allies.” In other words, ISE serves as a conduit for the sharing of information gathered without a warrant. Known ISE partners include the Office of Director of National Intelligence which oversees 17 federal agencies and organizations, including the NSA. ISE utilizes these partnerships to collect and share data on the millions of unwitting people they track.
Some of the information already released by groups analyzing the data appears to confirm the ACLU’s contention that fusion centers are helping cops target protestors – specifically, Black Lives Matter. According to WIRED:
“Some of the initial discoveries among the documents showed, for instance, that the FBI monitored the social accounts of protesters and sent alerts to local law enforcement about anti-police messages. Other documents detail the FBI tracking bitcoin donations to protest groups, and internal memos warning that white supremacist groups have posed as Antifa to incite violence.”
It will be interesting to see if the data dump contains any surveillance information. We have reported that the federal government encourages and funds surveillance technology including ALPRs, drones and stingrays at the state and local level across the U.S. In return, it undoubtedly gains access to a massive data pool on Americans without having to expend the resources to collect the information itself.
At the least, the massive cache of data provides further evidence that local, state and federal law enforcement are becoming more intertwined and evolving toward what is effectively a national police force.
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