The Minnesota Joint Analysis Center — a so-called fusion center — has access to multiple databases, dozens of which were created or dramatically bolstered after 9/11.
There is SIPRNet, a Department of Defense network used to transmit classified information, the Homeland Secure Data Network, which maintains secret-level communications on mitigating threats to the nation, and LEO, the Justice Department program for sharing antiterrorism and intelligence information with state and local governments.
Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety, the FBI and several local police departments created the state’s fusion center in May 2005. Much of its deployment costs were covered by nearly $4 million in federal homeland security grants received by the state between 2005 and 2007, according to figures supplied to the Center for Investigative Reporting in response to an open-records request.
The state also erected the ICEFISHX communications network, which collects reports about suspicious activity — both terrorist and generally criminal in nature — and provides them to the FBI, whose field intelligence groups look for patterns, part of the bureau’s own massive expansion of domestic intelligence gathering operations initiated after 9/11. Authorities in the neighboring states of North Dakota and South Dakota are regional allies in the venture.
Private corporations even contribute “intelligence” to ICEFISHX. Douglas Reynolds, security director for the Mall of America, the largest retail complex in the United States based in Bloomington, described his office to Congress in July of 2008 as the “number one source of actionable intelligence in the state,” having handed more information regarding suspicious activities to the fusion center than anyone else. Several attempts to reach Reynolds for elaboration failed.
Then there’s CriMNet, yet another data-sharing effort in Minnesota intended to better synchronize criminal and additional records making them more accessible to agencies across the state with just one user name and password. Police can swiftly retrieve driving histories and license photos, warrants, protective orders, the state’s gang files and digital fingerprints, as well as details on potential suspects, witnesses and victims, not just data on those who’ve served time in jail.
CriMNet received at least $350,000 in federal homeland security grants in 2004 through Minnesota’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, based in St. Paul. Police and state agencies located in the Twin Cities also used federal subsidies totaling approximately $500,000 between 2002 and 2004 to purchase various types of police surveillance and crime-busting equipment from video cameras for Hennepin County, which surrounds Minneapolis, to “data-collection software” for neighboring Ramsey County, according to homeland security grant spending records obtained by CIR.
G.W. Schulz is a reporter for the Center of Investigative Reporter and covers homeland security. He can be reached at gwschulz [at] cironline [dot] org.