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The reason local law enforcement are looking for potential terrorist activity is thanks to the 2001 PATRIOT Act. The act expanded the powers of federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency to gather intelligence but also increased the powers of local beat cops to gather intelligence. Local police have been empowered to become the eyes and ears of the feds via suspicious activity reporting to fusion centers.
Levenson says that the reaction by local law enforcement agencies has generally gone too far.
"The 9/11 mentality - that there are terrorists everywhere - could intrude on everyone's constitutional rights," she says. "I don't think anyone wants to go in that direction and I don't even think it's effective law enforcement. You can end up getting so much information that most of it is not useful and you're missing the needle in the hay stack."
According to a Government Accountability Office report from March 2013, as of November 2012, more than 14,200 local law enforcement agencies in 46 states, plus the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories, had the ability to share suspicious activity reports with 74 fusion centers.
About 10 minutes.
Written and produced by Paul Detrick. Camera by Tracy Oppenheimer, Zach Weissmuller, Alex Manning and Detrick. Graphics and associate producing by Will Neff.
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