Steve Chapman
Chicago Tribune
October 3, 2012


After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority tried to combat terrorism with posters instructing, “If you see something, say something.” In 2008, it proudly announced that 1,944 people did exactly that. What it didn’t mention is that the reports of suspicious activity and items led to only 18 arrests over the previous two years — none connected to terrorist plots.

So it may come as no surprise that a network of federally funded intelligence offices set up under President Bush and continued by President Obama have been a distracting extravagance, not a vital tool against extremist violence. A bipartisan Senate subcommittee issued a report yesterday concluding that the “fusion centers,” which were supposed to unearth and report actionable information about terrrorism, produced stuff that was “oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely . . . and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.”

Not only that were the centers apparently of no help, we don’t even know how much they cost — with estimates ranging from $289 million to $1.4 billion. Funds were used for such dubious needs as big-screen TVs, not to mention reports on innocuous activities protected by the First Amendment.

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