Most people attribute the creation of law enforcement and intelligence fusion centers with the events of September 11, 2001. However, from 1999–2002, a series of major events primed policy makers within the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities to formalize cross-community information sharing activities and ultimately to create an effective law enforcement and intelligence information-sharing environment.
As the new millennium was set to begin, Ahmed Ressam (the Millennium Bomber) was stopped as he exited a ferry crossing from Canada to a remote U.S. entry point. The contents found in his trunk would have allowed Ressam to achieve his goal of setting off an explosive device at the Los Angeles airport. This event, which occurred just two years before 9/11, led to meetings regarding the creation of some type of fusion and/or sharing process. Further discussions would advance this idea in the fall of 2002. In October of 2002, unprovoked shootings in the Washington DC metropolitan area resulted in 10 people dead and three critically injured. At the outset of these shootings, a massive police investigation across local and federal levels developed to apprehend the so-named Beltway Sniper. Local and federal law enforcement officials in the East attempted to fit the pieces together and analyze messages left by the killer or killers. This sniper case, combined with previous lessons learned, culminated in the realization for the need to formalize a multijurisdictional information-sharing activity. Members from across the law enforcement community—combining with elements of the homeland security, defense, and intelligence communities—set about institutionalizing this effort as quickly as possible.