A little known domestic intelligence gathering operation known as Fusion Centers are under the magnifying glass of the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois.
A Fusion Centers is a state or local law enforcement agency that works with private companies to gather and store information about people suspected of criminal activity and they share that information with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
There are two fusion centers in Illinois, one in Chicago and one in Springfield.
A poster and saying from the George Orwell novel "1984"
Adam Schwartz, senior staff counsel at the ACLU of Illinois, says we’re not quite in the fictitious novel “1984” yet, but we’re getting close.
In a report found on the ACLU of Illinois website, Schwartz provides examples of how people can be targeted by fusion centers for their political leanings. He says in recent years some of the nation’s military organization have spied on lawful anti-war protesters.
Another example Schwartz uses is a recent protest of Caterpillar where people gathered in opposition of where the manufacture was selling their products.
Schwartz says that the Illinois Fusion center provided threat assessments of the protesters.
Schwartz says in other parts of the country this has happened. One example in Missouri, a fusion center targeted supporters of Congressman Ron Paul.
The ACLU of Illinois says that by having the fusion centers and private companies working together to compile information on large groups of people, it can provide a chilling effect which could lead to people not willing to speak out.
Often times, the threat assessment is based not on criminality but on political leanings.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois says citizens have a right to know if they are a subject in a fusion center database.
The ACLU has filed Freedom of Information Act Requests with the two fusion centers to obtain their privacy policies and are suggesting more transparency for the domestic intelligence gathering operations in Illinois.