ORS Network Battling Disinformation

In July 2023, the Connecticut Drug Intelligence Officer (DIO) shared a post regarding hoax information on the Overdose Response Strategy (ORS) internal discussion forum. The false narrative involved utility workers poisoned by fentanyl after receiving water from a passerby. After hearing anecdotal reports of this poisoning, a CT Department of Transportation (DOT) official decided to err on the side of caution and sent the threat information to DOT employees via email. The CT DIO clarified that the story was investigated in CT and found to be untrue. However, the email circulated and created some issues. Following the ORS internal discussion forum post, the Delaware ORS team informed DE fusion center analysts about the disinformation. The analysts, in turn, relayed information from the North Central Texas Fusion Center (NCTFC), indicating a similar fictitious letter was circulated nationally. The DE ORS team contacted the NCTFC Deputy Director, who authorized them to share the information and letter within the ORS network. Open-source research by the DE ORS team confirmed the story was initially reported in Chicago media, but later retracted. Notably, the story in the letter was so similar to the anecdotal information in CT that the DE ORS team believed it was the actual source of that rumor. The ORS team shared these updates and the source letter with the CT DIO and the ORS network via the internal discussion forum. Additionally, the DE ORS team informed the Homeland Security Liaison within the Delaware Department of Transportation on behalf of the fusion center and requested vigilance for reports of this kind in Delaware. This case highlights the close collaboration between the ORS national network and the national fusion center network, ensuring critical information reaches those who can benefit from collective and timely knowledge. Captain Joshua Bushweller of the Delaware State Police and Director of the Delaware Information & Analysis Center (DIAC), the state’s fusion center, advised, “Delaware and DIAC benefit from this direct partnership with ORS and the added level of information sharing and analysis.”