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ACLU wrong about Las Vegas counter-terrorism fusion center

In a report last October on its website, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, belittled the cost effectiveness of the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center in Las Vegas.

The ACLU article, entitled, “Counterterrorism ‘Fusion Centers’ Threaten Civil Liberties,” was published on the website Oct. 8, 2012, and written by Dr. Dane S. Claussen, the executive director of the ACLU-Nevada since January 2011. Claussen has resigned, effective Jan. 31, 2013.

Claussen cited a 141-page report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, released a week before his article, that concluded, “that the 70 state and local intelligence ‘fusion centers’ have not produced significant, useful information to support federal counterterrorism intelligence efforts.”

He noted the report mentions the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center once by name. Many of the centers across the nation focus on local or regional crime, which is beyond the scope of the federal government, the committee report noted, adding, “In Nevada, the Southern Nevada Counterterrorism Center tracks incidents of violence in schools.”

Claussen added, “Perhaps the Senate noting that Las Vegas’s center tracks school violence is a ‘cheap shot’ (or perhaps not).”

But the incident at the North West Career Technical Trade Center in Las Vegas on Dec. 21 certainly challenges that assumption (See “School security back to normal,” MLN, Page 1-A, Jan 3, 2012).

A former student was arrested at the school and charged with five counts of bringing dangerous weapons onto school property. He was arrested when he arrived at the school, because the police were already there following up on a tip from the Las Vegas fusion center that there was a threat against the school.

The threat was related to another former student who had been indicted on federal weapons and explosives charges in September. Both of the students were co-founders of a militia group.

The former student arrested Dec. 21, had an assault-type rifle in his car with 40 rounds of ammunition. He told police the weapon and other survival gear was in his car because of his concerns about the alleged societal collapse on Dec. 21, the last day of the Mayan Long Calendar.

You might be willing to accept the story, except for an under-reported aspect.

There was a third young man involved, who still was a student at the school. He had asked permission to dress in camouflage clothing at school on Dec. 21 and stand sentry out front as the other students arrived.

But the police had him removed from class and sent him home before the former student arrived at noon. The boy claimed to know nothing about any alleged threat.

We’ll likely never know if there was an actually plot to attack the school. The former student who was arrested Dec. 21 did come into the building unarmed.

Nor will we know what would have happened if the visiting former student had pulled into the parking lot and saw the camouflage-dressed student standing at the front entrance during lunch hour. Would he have entered the school with the loaded rifle?

The purpose of armed police on a campus isn’t to win in a shootout. The purpose is to dissuade a would-be shooter and prevent a shootout.

It possible that’s what the tip from the Southern Nevada Counter-Terrorism Center in Las Vegas accomplished. We’ll likely never know.

What we do know is there wasn’t any shooting.

That’s good. And we can thank the Las Vegas fusion center for that despite the opinions of the ACLU of Nevada.

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