WHAT MAINSTREAM MEDIA HAVEN'T TOLD YOU: Scott Walker uses federal dollars to snoop on state residents | WisCommunity

WHAT MAINSTREAM MEDIA HAVEN'T TOLD YOU: Scott Walker uses federal dollars to snoop on state residents

[img_assist|nid=55501|title=Go spy on yourself|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=180|height=250]Here's your latest, go-to, textbook example of the difference between modern mainstream journalism and journalism that provides actual, solid political context. It's the difference, in this particular case, between the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Madison's Progressive magazine.

Start with the Journal Sentinel, which on Oct 2 ran an Associated Press story concerning the federal Homeland Security office's intelligence "fusion" centers. The AP story, quoting a US Senate report, summarized the shoddy, even dangerous performance of the fusion centers:

A multibillion-dollar information-sharing program created
in the aftermath of 9/11 has improperly collected
information about innocent Americans and produced little
valuable intelligence on terrorism, a Senate report
concludes. It portrays an effort that ballooned far beyond
anyone's ability to control.

What began as an attempt to put local, state and federal
officials in the same room analyzing the same
intelligence has instead cost huge amounts of money for
data-mining software ..., investigators found. (See the URL below for more)

So far, so good. The press did its job, sort of. The AP story mainly just quoted a bipartisan report from the government itself. The AP story did offer a small bit of analysis, noting that despite the program's serious failings, including much pork-barrel spending for unnecessary frills and sophisticated equipment in the ballooning program, "Congress is unlikely to pull the plug. That's because, whether or not it stops terrorists, the program means politically important money for state and local governments."

Beyond that, the Journal Sentinel made no effort to describe for its readers the fusion center operations in Wisconsin, or to even to note that Walker's program involves one of those now controversial centers.

So let's go find the really outrageous aspect to all of this elsewhere -- news that, for mainstream news readers remains hidden. And for that context, we must abandon the Journal Sentinel and other mainstream newspapers and instead open up The Progressive, a political magazine with a long history of breaking big public policy stories. The magazine covers national issues but, because it's based in Wisconsin, also often drills into issues specific to the state.

In its own coverage dated Oct. 3, The Progressive linked the Senate report to a program from Gov. Scott Walker, abetted by Atty. Gen. J.B. Van Hollen and the Wisconsin National Guard, to encourage Wisconsin citizens to spy on one another via two fusion centers based in Wisconsin. From The Progressive's report (boldfacing added by me):

... Last week Walker’s fantasies turned to crime fighting as
he launched Wisconsin’s “If You See Something, Say
Something™" campaign. Flanked by Attorney General J.
B. Van Hollen, Major General Don Dunbar of the
Wisconsin National Guard and Betsy Markey, Assistant
Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs, Department of
Homeland Security, Walker gave a rambling, folksy talk
about the role of citizens in the important work of
creating safe communities.

“Every day, not just in airports, but at sporting events, at
the grocery store, picking up the kids from school, out at
the park, at business or workplaces wherever that might
be, day in and day out there are people here in Wisconsin
that will run into something that makes them think, ‘You
know, that’s just not right. There’s something a little
unsettling about that.’ Through this campaign,” he said,
“we’re telling the people of Wisconsin, if you see
something, say something. It’s easy.”

Spying on your neighbor and projecting neurotic fears
onto others has never been more convenient or

In 2010 Dana Priest and William Arkin published Top
Secret America for the Washington Post. The series of
four meticulously researched articles revealed a
sprawling network of 1,271 units of governmental
agencies and 1,931 private companies or divisions within
companies that make up a vast, disjointed and secretive
domestic intelligence and homeland security world.

Part of that world is comprised of 77 “fusion centers”
across the country – part of the National Criminal
Intelligence Sharing Plan, which is designed to collect,
analyze, and share information through all levels of law
enforcement networks. “Nontraditional collectors of
intelligence, such as public safety entities and private
sector organizations, possess important information that
can be “fused” with law enforcement data to provide
meaningful information and intelligence about threats
and criminal activity,” reads the website of one center.

Two centers are located in Wisconsin: The Southeastern
Wisconsin Threat Analysis Center (STAC), which covers
Milwaukee and five southeastern counties, and the
Wisconsin Statewide Information Center (WSIC), which
covers the rest of the state. According to Attorney
General Van Hollen and Walker, WSIC is staffing the
phone banks and computer terminals for the “If You See
Something Say Something™” campaign.

As The Progressive noted in its article (URL also below), the fusion centers are prohibited by law "are prohibited from collecting or maintaining information on U.S. persons solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the U.S. Constitution, such as the First Amendment protected freedoms of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly and protest.” Yet, The Progressive reported, Senate investigators found that many reports produced by fusion center staff are rendered unusable because they violate those very rights.

Why would states continue to get involved with the fusion centers? Political interest in monitoring suspected political "subversives" aside, it's a pork barrel full of tax dollars, and governors like having that money to spend.

On which point: How telling it is that Walker -- so upset about the federal grant to build a high-speed passenger route through Wisconsin that he rejected it and its thousands of new jobs -- is nevertheless quite happy to accept federal money to encourage state residents to spy on each other.


October 5, 2012 - 1:49pm