The Lawfare Podcast


Lifting the Veil on Fusion Centers

In the wake of September 11, 2001, federal law enforcement agencies were caught flatfooted when they realized that they'd had the intel to prevent the attack on the homeland, but they'd failed to connect those dots. Fusion centers were born out of an abundance of caution to share and streamline counterterrorism information between the federal level and state and local levels. Since then, the Department of Homeland Security has supported the development of a national network of 80 fusion centers across the United States. And while its principle goal initially was to disseminate counterterrorism intel from the state and local levels, it's now expanded to include the sharing of intelligence regarding crimes or hazards more broadly. 

Last month, the Brennan Center released a report entitled, “Ending Fusion Center Abuses,” explaining how fusion centers’ domestic intelligence model has undermined American's privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. Lawfare legal fellow Saraphin Dhanani sat down with Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program, who co-authored the report, as well as Thomas Warrick, a non-resident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security Forward Defense Practice at the Atlantic Council. They discussed how fusion centers were conceived, where they've excelled as intelligence centers, and where they've abused their powers.

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Chatter: M. Todd Bennett on the Secretive Story of the Glomar Explorer

A sunken Soviet submarine. A secret CIA plan to lift it from the bottom of the ocean with a giant claw. And reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes. It sounds like the makings of a Netflix series—and it should be. But the story of the Glomar Explorer is the stuff of fact, even if it has long been shrouded in secrecy.  In his new book, intelligence historian M. Todd Bennett pierces the veil surrounding this most improbable of intelligence operations and surfaces a riveting tale of underwater espionage and high-stakes foreign policy. The sub-salvage mission, which the CIA codenamed AZORIAN, was green-lit at a time of remarkable daring and ingenuity by the spy agency, which enjoyed only minimal oversight from Congress. But journalists brought the Glomar operation to light in another era, when scandals and excesses led lawmakers to rein in the intelligence community.  Shane Harris talks with Bennett about his book, “Neither Confirm nor Deny: How the Glomar Mission Shielded the CIA from Transparency,” which shows how the exposure of the secret program led to a public backlash against disclosures of classified information and helped reinforce the culture of secrecy that envelops the CIA’s work. The phrase “neither confirm nor deny,” which Bennett tells Harris has become a kind of coy cliche, originates from attempts to uncover the facts of the Glomar mission. Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo. Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.