A multibillion-dollar information sharing programme created in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks in 2001 has improperly collected information about innocent Americans and produced little valuable intelligence on terrorism, a U.S. 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 analysing the same intelligence has instead cost huge amounts of money for data-mining software, flat screen televisions, etc. “The ... investigation could identify no reporting which uncovered a terrorist threat, nor could it identify a contribution such fusion centre reporting made to disrupt an active terrorist plot,” said the report.

When the programme did address terrorism, it sometimes did so in ways that infringed on civil liberties. The fusion centres have made headlines for circulating information about the American Civil Liberties Union, activists on both sides of the abortion debate, war protesters and advocates of gun rights.

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