Letter | Bud Levin

It’s hard to tell how serious you are about your column on the leaked Fusion Center report. If you’re just trying to build up readership, hell, even I remember there was something in the first amendment about the press. That said, I think you (and Kent and our beloved governor) have gone a bit overboard.

Kent and I have been acquainted for quite a few years now, and I spent about a dozen years on the ACLU-Virginia board. We don’t always agree, but we agree enough that I’ve been a client of his twice, and I consider him a solid gent. a damned good man.

What I’m trying to tell you is I’m not being a reflexive conservative on this. I’ve been in and out of the intelligence dodge since 1962, and most recently have co-authored http://futuresworkinggroup.cos.ucf.edu/publications/LocalIntel.pdf . It’s enough on-target that the bureau published it, so I reckon it’s not seditious. Probably.

Anyhow, fusion centers are a relatively recent development as such things go. It takes a long time to get them running smoothly and doing the right things well. You (and apparently Kent and the governor) have gotten your bowels in an uproar over, inter alia, the (paraphrased) claim that colleges from time to time are centers of sin and iniquity. I’ve spent almost 50 years on college campuses, and they are. That’s one of the things I like about them.

When I was a student, I often did my best to see that they were — in my misspent youth, I rather thoroughly enjoyed that aspect of the college experience. I’ve been in campus-based riots, including alcohol-fueled post-athletic insurrections.

Within the last week, Kent State had a little bit of a problem (www.usnews.com/blogs/paper-trail/2009/04/27/kent-state-minnesota-police-quell-weekend-riots.html). I assume the college is no kin to Kent Willis, although I has my suspicions. Neither of you may remember The Weathermen, Black Panthers, SNCC, SDS, SLA, etc. Perhaps you do not recall the campus connections of various eco-terrorism groups? And, of course, the Democratic Party — no, I dassn’t say that to you two.

Yes, almost all of it is in the long run harmless. so is nearly everything else in the range of human behavior. The intel enterprise is tasked with sorting through zillions of (almost entirely public) haystacks looking for a needle that may or may not be there. Along the way, analysts draw (very) provisional inferences, most of which turn out to be wrong. Nearly everybody in the game understands that. The problem is there usually is no way to find out which is right and which is wrong without a lot of looking around. so, we give our best guesses — often not great guesses, but the best we have — so that our eyes and ears on the world can keep their eyes and ears open for information that would confirm or disconfirm.

If I understand you and Kent, you’d rather intel people not do that, but rather go straight to the right answers, catching the bad guys and leaving everyone else alone. So would the intel people. Unfortunately, there is not a practical way to do that most of the time.

So, you are free to take umbrage, and you and the governor can probably cripple one of the better fusion centers in the nation, and then bitch when lots of things start to happen because the fusion center folks were shut down. not literally shut down, but so risk-averse that they won’t get the job done. We’ve been there before.

 

– Letter from Bud Levin


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