Oklahoma's information fusion center has a broader role today than it did when it began operations four years ago.
David Stenhouse, the center's director, said the reason for the creation of this center and others like it across the country was the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the East Coast. Now, in addition to serving as a clearinghouse for information about potential terrorism, it also has a role in working against serious crime in general.
“Job number one is preventing that from happening again,” Stenhouse said, pointing to an enlarged photo hanging on the center's wall of the Twin Towers engulfed in flames. “Three thousand people died, ... so, job one is the terrorism piece, whether it's domestic or foreign.”
Stenhouse said fusion centers aren't exactly law enforcement agencies, but function more as centers for information gathering and distribution. He also said the agency doesn't spy on U.S. citizens — one of the criticisms of fusion centers by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We don't have any black helicopters,” he said. “What we do is take threat information, analyze it, and then send it to the appropriate agencies.”
Stenhouse said any information sent out of the office is screened by a privacy officer, himself and at least one other staff member to ensure that privacy laws aren't breached.
Oklahoma's fusion center is housed inside the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation's headquarters, 6600 N Harvey Place, and includes a secured room where secret information from the federal government is received.
A central office includes a small room filled with monitors and TV screens, relaying data to an analyst. Its operations are funded, for the most part, by grants from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Stenhouse said the federal agency provided Oklahoma's fusion center with about $400,000, which he said was used to pay the salaries of four analysts and training purposes. His salary — and that of other support staff — is paid by OSBI.