Homeland Security Officials Caught Hiding Online Spying Program from Congress

By:  Joe Wolverton, II
03/02/2012
       
Homeland Security Officials Caught Hiding Online Spying Program from Congress

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not afraid of congressional oversight into its domestic spying program.  Last week, DHS Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan and Director of Operations Coordination and Planning Richard Chavez testified before the House Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Intelligence, and their testimony was alarming to those concerned about the near constant assault by the federal government on the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment in particular.
 
 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not afraid of congressional oversight into its domestic spying program.  Last week, DHS Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan and Director of Operations Coordination and Planning Richard Chavez testified before the House Subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Intelligence, and their testimony was alarming to those concerned about the near constant assault by the federal government on the Constitution and the Fourth Amendment in particular.
 
While it has been reported that these two bureaucrats were “deliberately stonewalling,” the level of unwarranted searches of the online activity of those not accused or even suspected of any crime to which these witnesses testified is disturbing.

How disturbing? Here’s how one commentator described how the social media spying program works: “If you're the first person to tweet about a news story, or if you're a community activist who makes public Facebook posts — DHS will have your personal information.”

The snooping that caught the attention of Congress is part of the Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative begun last year by DHS’s National Operations Center (NOC). In the report on the initiative published by DHS, the intelligence-gathering arm of the DHS, the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS), gives itself permission to “gather, store, analyze, and disseminate” data on millions of users of social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) and business networking sites (Linkedin).

Specifically, the initiative sets out the plan and purpose behind the DHS’s collection of personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters, or anyone else who posts articles, comments, or other information to many popular web outlets. The report defines the target audience as anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”

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