Day: April 13, 2011

Fusion Centers: Effective Tool in Fighting Terrorism or Big Brother on Steroids?

  There is something watching you. It can access your bank records, your credit records, who you texted on your cell phone, whether or not you are vaccinated … all without your knowledge. It isn’t an identity thief searching through your garbage, it is a highly sophisticated federally funded data center called a Fusion Center. Thankfully, the Austin Police Department is leading the way for the nation in protecting our privacy and civil liberties from unregulated Fusion Centers. General Info: A Fusion Center is a law enforcement hub for collecting and sharing information. Fusion Centers were created after 9/11 to help fight terrorism and are currently free to document the activities of Texans engaging in First Amendment protected activities (e.g., protests and political rallies) and collect non-criminal information (e.g., bank statements, credit card statements, medical history) on private citizens. Fusion Centers “increase the ability of law enforcement to think about the causes and patterns of crime rather than being simply reactive,” Dr. Michael Lauderdale, Chairman of Austin’s Public Safety Commission, said. Lauderdale was instrumental in bringing a Fusion Center to Austin and he sees the potential negatives of Fusion Centers. “They may gather data that is interesting but may not be appropriate or legal, or become very unwieldy because of the amount of data collected.” According to Matt Simpson of the ACLU of Texas, “The problem is that the...

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The Intersection of Climate Change and Recovery

  On Friday, April 8, the U.S. Congress dodged a government shutdown by striking a budget compromise, undoubtedly crushing the dreams of the news outlets gleefully throwing countdown clocks and “what if?!” statements around. What the media have largely failed to cover, however, are the follow-up discussions that continue to adjust the budget. One of these discussions centers on an interesting piece of climate-related legislation – penned by Republicans and signed by President George W. Bush in 2005. As expected for something coming out of a party well-known for its skepticism on climate change, the program is not technically a climate change mitigation program, but rather a piece of energy legislation to create jobs and promote the alternative energy market. The program provides a way for renewable energy projects to apply for loans from the Department of Energy. The New York Times’ Green blog  quotes the Department of Energy on the program’s impact, stating that since its creation, the program “has provided loan guarantees or made preliminary commitments of more than $18 billion for 20 projects,” with another 25 projects on the verge of completing the application process. Proposed cuts to the program could eliminate funding for those 25 loans not yet finalized. Interestingly, Democrat senators have come to the defense of this Republican bill, arguing for its role in the economy recovery. The Wall Street Journal quotes alternative...

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