Ensuring Transparency in Philadelphia’s Fusion Center

The Delaware Valley Intelligence Center, an “all hazards, all crimes” fusion center located in South Philadelphia, has been a subject of investigation by the Declaration since this publication’s founding. We reported twice yesterday on what we hope was the last in our attempts to extract substantive information about the DVIC’s operations. A privacy policy for the center, the approval of which by the Department of Homeland Security is a requirement for use of the Department’s grant funds for fusion center operations (according to the most recent guidelines, Homeland Security Grant Program funds are to be spent only for a Privacy Policy’s development to the exclusion of intelligence gathering and information-sharing until a policy is granted approval), is very conspicuously absent from available information.

"FY 2010 DHS grant funds may not be used to support fusion center-related initiatives unless the fusion center is able to certify that privacy and civil rights/civil liberties (CR/CL) protections are in place that are determined to be at least as comprehensive as the ISE Privacy Guidelines by the ISE Privacy Guidelines Committee...."

“FY 2010 DHS grant funds may not be used to support fusion center-related initiatives unless the fusion center is able to certify that privacy and civil rights/civil liberties (CR/CL) protections are in place that are determined to be at least as comprehensive as the ISE Privacy Guidelines by the ISE Privacy Guidelines Committee….”

The former privacy officer for the facility, Chief Thomas Nestel of the SEPTA Police, has assured our editors that such a policy does exist and was approved by DHS – however our attempts to obtain it in the public interest have met with nearly of year of what could only be apprehended as stone-walling.

"Guard" at the DVIC Entrance, Oregon Avenue

“Guard” in the security booth at the DVIC Entrance on Oregon Avenue

"Guard" at the DVIC Entrance, Oregon Avenue

“Guard” at the DVIC Entrance, Oregon Avenue

Through a contact made on-site yesterday, as well as via Chief Nestel, the Executive Director of the DVIC Inspector Walt Smith has committed to providing the Declaration with the policy on Monday, as well as to meeting with our editors.


@DustinSlaughter
 @kennethlipp Spoke to INSP Smith. DVIC has no staff working until Monday. He is willing to meet w/you then.

— Thomas J. Nestel III (@TNestel3) November 2, 2013

We are grateful for this first serious response to our inquiry and are eager to interview Inspector Smith tomorrow. However, in light of the opacity extant, no guarantee is assumed, and the editors remain incredulous on behalf of the public.

In order to balance a dearth of officially provided material, the Declaration will begin to house an archive of relevant documents and references for general consumption, in addition to our continued analysis and presentation of our research and discovery.

Look for it this week.

Gallery: Images from literature published about the DVIC

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We acknowledge the possibility that a Privacy Policy does exist, and the Declaration will post the document upon receipt. We will not issue a “retraction” of our statements asserting its non-existence, however. It has not been available to the press after aggressive investigation, let alone to the general public via a website or hotline. Whatever is possessed by the DVIC should be considered an internal directive-type memorandum at best. A privacy policy that is hidden is not a privacy policy at all.

Until we can publish for our readers a Delaware Valley Intelligence Center Privacy Policy which details what steps fusion center employees take to ensure the Constitutionality of their activities (and which complies with the DHS requirement of being at least as rigorous as the Department’s recommended template), the editorial position of The Declaration is that the policy does not exist.

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About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

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