‘We’re not as safe as we think we are:’ Tennessee Fusion Center working to combat terror

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – The Tennessee Fusion Center is housed within the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s headquarters in Nashville. It was created in response to the intelligence failures that led to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.

It’s one of 80 similar centers across our country where local, state, and federal law enforcement partners share terrorism information and criminal activity.

“Part of the reason why 9/11 happened, information was stove pipped and it wasn’t being shared. Somebody needs to be looking at the big picture.” Greg Mays is the Director of Tennessee’s Department of Safety & Homeland Security.

Mays, along with TBI Director David Rausch, represents two of eight agencies that work closely to create a transparent state-wide perspective as part of the Tennessee Fusion Center.

“The Fusion Center is working to connect the dots to see what issues we may have statewide, and then we share that information with other states,” Mays explains.

He continues, the agencies are in constant communication. “That’s really an everyday, almost an everyday occurrence.”

They work to investigate and diffuse situations the public will never know about.

“I can tell you, we have thwarted a lot of potentially dangerous situations. A lot of potential mass casualty incidents as a result of our working together,” Rausch says.

The center’s full-time employees assess risk, analyze threats, and track suspicious activity reports.

“Those reports become critical when we get these tips, so if a local agency has had an interaction with an individual and that interaction has made them concerned, we are able to find that information,” explains Rausch.

The focus of the Fusion Center has changed over the years.

“While we keep an eye on international, domestic has been the biggest concern on the homeland right now, and those actors are just not all known.” Rausch referring to the Christmas Day bomber as an example. “You have an individual who really wasn’t on the screen. Those kinds of folks are really the scary ones. It’s the ones that we don’t know.”

“Even the explosive he acquired,” Mays interjects, “He acquired in such small amounts over such a long period of time that it didn’t raise any flags. He was a real anomaly. Very strange in many ways.”

Both agree, bad actors typically have pre-attack behaviors that are more obvious.

“If you know somebody, and you know them well, and they begin to act strangely it’s worth letting somebody know,” Mays says.

Because, they say, the threat that caused devastation two decades ago is still out there

“Terrorism is as prevalent today in the world as it ever has been,” says Mays.

Rausch agrees saying Americans need to realize the threat remains, “It steeled in me the understanding that we’re not as safe as we think we are. And, it heightened the importance of the role that we have.”

September 11, 2001, was a day that changed our country and the world. The fight against terrorism has not ended. Some state and federal law enforcement agencies say we cannot let our guard down. News 2 digs deeper with special reports ‘9/11: 20 Years Later’ all day today in every newscast and on WKRN.com.

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