Jan. 19, 2012
EPIC: FOIA Docs Reveal DHS Monitoring of Online Political Dissent
As the result of EPIC v. DHS, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained nearly 300 pages of documents detailing a Department of Homeland Security social media surveillance program. The documents include contracts and statements of work with General Dynamics for 24/7/365 media and social network monitoring and periodic reports to DHS. As part of this contract, General Dynamics was tasked with monitoring media and social networking sites and providing immediate, daily, and weekly summaries to Homeland Security.
The FOIA documents reveal that Homeland Security is tracking criticism and dissent, stating that the contractor should monitor and summarize media stories that “reflect adversely” on DHS or the US government. (Emphasis mine) DHS also says that the agency is attempting to “capture public reaction to major government proposals.”
No one is surprised. The information gathered here will be combined with all of the other data points on us that the government has access to in order to flesh out the threat assessment being performed, on some level, of all of us.
If you are saying nasty or unflattering things about government agencies or their policies, DHS wants to know so that they will be able to offer effective pressure or counter-propaganda to ideas that they find at odds with their aims.
The agency instructs the contractor to generate “reports on DHS, Components, and other Federal Agencies: positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc. as well as organizations outside the DHS.”
One tracking report held up by the DHS as a example of what a report should include – “Residents Voice Opposition Over Possible Plan to Bring Guantanamo Detainees to Local Prison-Standish, MI” – summarizes dissent on blogs and social networking cites, quoting commenters on popular social networking sites and news media comment boards.
Jan 13, 2012, the New York Times Reports;
Ginger McCall, director of the group’s [EPIC] Open Government Program, said it was appropriate for the department to use the Internet to search for emerging threats to public safety. But, she said, monitoring what people are saying about government policies went too far and could chill free speech.
“The Department of Homeland Security’s monitoring of political dissent has no legal basis and is contrary to core First Amendment principles,” she said.
From a Reuters exclusive ‘Homeland Security watches Twitter, social media’ Jan 11, 2012;
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s command center routinely monitors dozens of popular websites, including Facebook, Twitter, Hulu, WikiLeaks and news and gossip sites including the Huffington Post and Drudge Report, according to a government document.
. . .News and gossip sites on the monitoring list include popular destinations such as the Drudge Report, Huffington Post and “NY Times Lede Blog”, as well as more focused techie fare such as the Wired blogs “Threat Level” and “Danger Room.” Numerous blogs related to terrorism and security are also on the list.
Some of the sites on the list are potentially controversial. WikiLeaks is listed for monitoring, even though officials in some other government agencies were warned against using their official computers to access WikiLeaks material because much of it is still legally classified under U.S. government rules.
Another blog on the list, Cryptome, also periodically posts leaked documents and was one of the first websites to post information related to the Homeland Security monitoring program.
Also on the list are JihadWatch and Informed Comment, blogs that cover issues related to Islam through sharp political prisms, which have sometimes led critics to accuse the sites of political bias
Sources from EPIC;
EPIC: Freedom of Information Act Request to DHS (April 12, 2011)
EPIC: FOIA Documents Received from DHS (Jan. 12, 2012)
(Jan. 13, 2012)
Warns’ (Jan. 16, 2012)
EPIC: EPIC v. DHS (Media Monitoring)