The state of Washington’s intelligence fusion center in Seattle has posted a special form online citizens can use to report suspicious activity they observe. It’s part of a growing campaign by authorities to collect information about possible terrorist planning. “With your help, we can stop a crime or a terrorist plot,” says a website where the tip submission form is located. Although violent extremism is a priority for them, fusion centers have increasingly focused their attention on everyday law enforcement responsibilities. Dozens of the centers were established after Sept. 11 with the help of federal homeland security grants.

The Seattle Weekly newspaper caught up with Washington state’s fusion center in a full-length June 9 story that raised questions about police in the area falsely arresting political protesters and collecting information on them. One incident led to the state patrol and two local governments paying more than $500,000 as part of a settlement. According to the story:

Funded with both federal and local money, the center’s 17 employees, says [state patrol spokesman Lt. Randy] Drake, scour the internet and sift through e-mails and law-enforcement tips on ‘suspicious activities, that type of thing.’ … Through a series of security corridors, center employees can also reach the nearby offices of the Puget Sound Joint Terrorism Task Force and the regional FBI Field Intelligence Group. Besides state investigators and analysts, Seattle police and the King County sheriff also have full-time intelligence officers at the fusion center. Almost every city and county law-enforcement agency in the state is linked to the center through the secure State Intelligence Network. Operatives [sic] also have access to the FBI computer system, and, depending on their security-clearance level and the type of case, can access intelligence from around the globe.”

June 2010 Washington State Fusion Center Bulletin

G.W. Schulz is a reporter for Reveal, covering security, privacy, technology and criminal justice. Since joining The Center for Investigative Reporting in 2008, he's reported stories for NPR, KQED, Wired.com, The Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, Mother Jones and more. Prior to that, he wrote for the San Francisco Bay Guardian and was an early contributor to The Chauncey Bailey Project, which won a Tom Renner Award from Investigative Reporters and Editors in 2008. Schulz also has won awards from the California Newspaper Publishers Association and the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter. He graduated from the University of Kansas and is based in Austin, Texas.