Data-sharing among US law agencies amounts to ‘organised chaos’ – report

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By Paul Martin

• Report describes lack of oversight and civil liberties violations
• Agencies ‘risk masking reliable counter-terrorism intelligence’

Spencer Ackerman
Tuesday 10 December 2013

The sharing of crucial intelligence about counter-terrorism between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and local police departments takes place through a patchwork process that amounts to “organized chaos”, according to a new report.

The report, released Tuesday by the Brennan Center for Justice, a public-policy institute at New York University law school that has a track record of being skeptical of government surveillance, found inconsistent rules, inadequate oversight, apparent wastefulness and insufficient regard for civil liberties nationwide.

“This poorly organized system not only wastes time and resources; it also risks masking reliable intelligence that could be crucial to an investigation,” the report says, warning that a “din of data” is overwhelming law enforcement.

“There’s a lot of irrelevant information being collected,” said Michael Price, a counsel with the Brennan Center and the author of the report.

“As a result of that, it seems pretty easy for information to slip through the cracks.”

Scrutiny of the wide-reaching intelligence apparatus in federal, state and local law enforcement since 9/11 has largely taken a backseat during the past six months’ worth of revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden about the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. But this week, several reports pointed to an enormous amount of data collected by police departments – particularly from cellular towers.

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