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Maine

Lawmaker Seeks Oversight for Maine Fusion Center

AUGUSTA, Maine — A Hallowell Democrat is introducing a bill that would provide more oversight of the secretive Maine Information and Analysis Center, which is being used in the state's battle against drug abuse and trafficking.

As a member of the Legislature's Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Rep. Charlotte Warren says she didn't know about the center's existence until reading about it after the governor's drug summit in August.

"So I started doing some research about it and it seems that there's not a lot of information out there," she says. "I really felt like we all have the same goal, and our goal is that we want to deal with this drug addiction problem, but at the same time I just want to make sure that we're being really mindful of the privacy rights of Maine people."

At the drug summit, the LePage administration announced that the center is one of about 80 so-called "fusion centers" in the country that are used to analyze drug activity and trends, which are then shared with other law enforcement agencies.

They were originally created to combat terrorism after 9/11 and have come under fire in some states for misuse of funding and privacy violations.

While Maine's "fusion center" is overseen by state police, Warren says it appears to have no legislative oversight, and details about its staffing and budget are not available.

"And I think taxpayers have a right to know what are we spending our money on and are we being effective in the fight," she says. "Certainly, we all have the same goal and we need to know that what we're doing is working and so that was my interest and that was the hope in submitting this bill."

The 10-member Legislative Council, which meets Thursday, must approve any new bills for the second session of the Legislature, which is typically reserved for top priority or emergency measures.