Idaho politicians have been on the forefront of domestic surveillance debates since the mid-1970s, when U.S. Sen. Frank Church chaired hearings on the FBI's COINTELPRO domestic counterintelligence program. Church was also a vocal critic of the National Security Administration, who infamously maintained a "watch list" of citizens and regularly monitored and intercepted both citizens' and organizations' communications. Church told the Senate in 1975, "That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.
"I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge," Church presciently said. "I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
More recently, both Sen. Larry Craig and Rep. Butch Otter were vocal opponents of the Patriot Act in 2005, while Craig to reauthorize an altered version earlier this year. Otter's statements explaining his position revolved around similar topics to Church's--defending freedoms and avoiding government excesses--while Craig told Rush Limbaugh that he did it to protect America from Hillary Clinton. "There will come a day when there will not be a George W in the White House," Sen. Craig warned. "And tragically enough, and I hope never, it could be a Hillary Clinton ... Who will be her attorney general, and what might he or she do to your liberties and mine? There's the question."
But in the meantime, Idaho's law enforcement agencies are involved in a limited amount of information sharing, but are preparing for more. The Idaho State Police, which is the lead agency for Homeland Security and counter-terrorism activities in Idaho, are involved in the Rocky Mountain Information Network, a federally funded, law-enforcement-specific network that shares information about potential gang and wanted fugitive situations.
Idaho is one of the eight states currently without a fusion center, but according to Lt. Col. Kevin Johnson of the Idaho State Police, we're on the radar.
"We've been in discussions with the feds," says Johnson. "We have task forces that cover the north of the state and the southern part of the state, and we've talked about fusion centers, but when you look around here, there's not a lot of agencies that have strictly intelligence units. It's a smaller state with smaller law enforcement personnel."
Johnson adds, however, that he doesn't doubt the establishment of such a center will be required of Idaho in the future. "If it's required, then we'll have to get into further discussions with agencies like the U.S. Attorney's office and the FBI," he says.
CORRECTION: The print version of this article stated incorrectly that Butch Otter voted to approve the modified version of the Patriot Act.