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The 21st Century Panopticon?

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Panel Summary

This plenary will discuss an inter-networked communication infrastructure that could facilitate the creation of a modern surveillance society. The name given to the criminal justice/national security project is “information fusion centers.” Fusion centers are an amalgamation of commercial and public sector data for the purpose of optimizing the collection, analysis, and sharing of personal information. The Department of Homeland Security’s $380 million in funding has created over 40 information fusion centers in the United States.


Plenary Panel Participants

Lillie Coney, Associate Director EPIC (Moderator)

  • Johnny Barnes is the Executive Director of the ACLU-National Capital Area. Prior to coming to the ACLU-National Area office he was Chief of Staff and Budget Associate for Congresswoman Eva M. Clayton of North Carolina. His extensive Hill background includes working as a Budget Associate with the House Committee on the Budget, and on the staff of Congressman Lucien E. Blackwell of Pennsylvania. He also served as Political Director for former DC Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly. In addition to extensive legislative and city government administration experience he has also served as a member of the D.C. Commission for Women; Deputy Director, D.C. Project on Community Legal Assistance and Street Law; Member, D.C. Commission on Human Rights; Hearing Examiner, D.C. Commission on Human Rights; Member, D.C. Commission on Residential Mortgage Investment; Teaching Assistant, CLEO Program, Howard University Law School; President, Legal Aid Society, Georgetown Law Center; Participant, D.C. Law Students in Court Program; and Law Assistant, Neighborhood Legal Services Program. Johnny Barnes has a J.D. from Georgetown Law Center, Washington, D.C. and is the recipient of the Jeffrey B. Crandall Memorial Award. His undergrad is from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio where he completed his degree as a Cum Laude Graduate, Distinguished Military Graduate.


  • Mike German is a Counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union and a former FBI undercover agent working on domestic terror assignments. Mike was a highly regarded FBI agent working on domestic terrorism cases for 16 years before resigning in frustration in Summer 2004. In the early 1990s, he successfully infiltrated a white supremacist group that was plotting to blow up synagogues and a church attended by African Americans. After the Oklahoma City bombing, he again went undercover, joining a militia group that was conspiring to harm federal agents. Both cases led to prosecutions and more importantly, prevented terrorist acts. He can appreciate the importance of finding those intent on doing this nation harm, while not being distracted by information that is irrelevant, unproductive, or false. Michael is currently working on a report for the ACLU that investigates the use of Fusion Centers in the collection, processing, and dissemination of information for law enforcement, intelligence, and non-government purposes.


  • Stuart S. Shapiro is a Principal Information Privacy and Security Engineer and a member of the Privacy Practice at the MITRE Corporation, a not-for-profit company performing contract technical research and consulting primarily for the U.S. government. At MITRE he has supported a wide range of privacy activities, including privacy impact assessments, for major government programs and coordinates MITRE research on privacy-enabling technologies (PETs). Among his professional affiliations are the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), the Advisory Board of the Ponemon Institute’s Responsible Information Management Council, and the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)—including its public policy committee, USACM.


  • Christopher Soghoian is a PhD student in the School of Informatics at Indiana University. His research is focused on phishing, privacy and cyber-law. He is a nationally recognized expert in the area of airport security, and he was cited by the House Oversight Committee for his work in exposing flaws in a website run by the Transportation Security Administration. He is the primary inventor of four pending patents in the areas of anti-virus defenses, phishing, mobile authentication and privacy preserving digital payments. He blogs regularly at http://www.cnet.com/surveillance-state/ He also is a Technology Policy Fellow with EPIC.


  • John Verdi is the Director of EPIC's Open Government Project. His work focuses on legal issues relating to open government, consumer privacy, and digital security. Prior to joining EPIC, Mr. Verdi was a civil litigation associate in Washington D.C. His litigation experience includes matters relating to federal and state open records statutes, Administrative Procedure Act claims regarding federal oversight, and tort cases involving digital information misappropriation and misuse. Prior to his career as a lawyer, Mr. Verdi worked as a computer programmer on a variety of projects, including several applications involving secure financial data. He also advised the National Hockey League on a host of technology issues, including data collection as it relates to the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School, and earned his BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Law at Binghamton University. His open government work at EPIC includes Fusion Centers in VA.

Detailed Description

In December 2004, the push for a national Fusion Center initiative received a boost when the Department of Justice sponsored Global Infrastructure/Standards Working Group published “A Framework for Justice Information Sharing: Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).” In August 2005, the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative of the Department of Justice published the Fusion Center Guidelines.

Turning Fusion Centers into Hardware and Software

The Fusion Center Guidelines endorses the use of the new database sharing capability created by the open source programming language known as the Extensible Markup Language (XML) standards. This programming language allows the identification of fields of information through the use of a translation feature that accomplishes its task between the system being asked for information, and the end requester. In this process the source of the data and the recipient do not need to change their computer networks to participate in the information exchange network.

Fusion Center Data Sources

The data sought by fusion centers includes: financial records; criminal and non-criminal justice system records, tribal, local, state, federal, private, and university law enforcement records, education records (day cares, preschools, primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities, and technical schools); government issued licenses and permits, medical records (public health, ambulance, hospitals, mental health, clinics, and primary care physician medical files), hospitality and lodging, gaming industry, telecommunication providers, military and defense records; US Post Offices, postal and shipping services, private security (alarm companies, armored car companies, investigative firms, corporate security offices, private security companies); public works; social services; and transportation.

The intelligence and analysis of information will be based on the needs of fusion center participants. The “four major desired outcomes” for fusion centers are: the reduction of the incident of crime; suppression of criminal activity; the regulation of non-criminal conduct; the provision of services.

Privacy and Civil Liberties and Fusion Centers

There are questions about the focus on privacy and civil liberties considerations within the development of the Global Justice Information Sharing Initiative and Department of Homeland Security, Fusion Center Guidelines. “The project team should have access to subject-matter experts in areas of privacy law and technical systems design and operations, as well as skilled writers, but these individuals do not necessarily have to be team members.”

A Law Enforcement Assistance and Partnership Strategy report published by the minority staff of the 109th House Committee on Homeland Security, which included this effort at melding the role of law enforcement and private sector roles, “Chief Ellen Hanson of the City of Lenexa, Kansas Police Department recounts:

Local efforts to inform the public are an effective way to stay on top of information regarding possible terrorist activity. Here in Lenexa we have incorporated this element into our Crime Resistant Community Policing Program. We conduct regular trainings with the maintenance and rental staffs of apartment complexes, motels, and storage facilities. We show them how to spot and identify things like printed terrorist materials and propaganda and unique weapons of mass destruction like suicide bomb vests and briefcases.