The Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security is monitoring numerous media outlets — and new guidelines open the possibility that the DHS will spy on private citizens’ FaceBook, Twitter, or MySpace pages and retain personal information in its database for up to five years.
The “Social Networking/Media Capability” program is conducted by the DHS’s National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative and the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS). Media accounts trace its emergence to the summer of 2010. The media have revealed this program monitors five pages of websites. In addition to the social media sites listed above, Big Sis is monitoring the Drudge Report, The Huffington Post, ABC’s “The Blotter,” New York Times The Lede, YouTube, Hulu, and Flickr — and many, many others.
The Department of Homeland Security has visited this website numerous times.
The program purports to collect massive quantities of data from a variety of webpages to help it respond to emergencies, such as natural disasters.
Reuters reports the DHS program also monitors “blogs related to news and activity along U.S. borders (DHS runs border and immigration agencies).”
Agents are also authorized to find and maintain the personal identifiable information (PII) on a “discrete category of individuals,” according to its report. However, its criteria are so broad as to allow virtually anyone to be targeted.
Although its guidelines restrict obtaining PII to individuals such as government agents or reporters, they also allow data collection on all those “known or identified as reporters in their post or article and who use traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”
Potentially, if someone who maintains a blog were to post a FaceBook message saying, “All is well after the windstorm,” the DHS could collect and store his or her personal information for up to five years.
RT.com, which first broke the story, explains:
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s own definition of personal identifiable information, or PII, such data could consist of any intellect “that permits the identity of an individual to be directly or indirectly inferred, including any information which is linked or linkable to that individual.” Previously established guidelines within the administration say that data could only be collected under authorization set forth by written code, but the new provisions in the NOC’s write-up means that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.
The DHS report notes no fewer than 12 reports “inadvertently included unnecessary PII or potential PII.” Luckily, its own server “resides on a secure, firewalled, isolated private network that does not allow inbound access or connection.”
RT adds in a chilling note, “the data is being shared with both private sector businesses and international third parties.” Indeed, the DHA report adds the program “will share Media Monitoring Reports (MMRs) with Departmental and component leadership, private sector, and international partners where necessary, appropriate and authorized by law.”
In an administration obsessed with monitoring pro-life “terrorists”, anyone who has more than seven days of food in his home, anyone who said anything “fishy” about ObamaCare, collecting Republican e-mail addresses, and “cognitively infiltrating” its opponents’ ranks, this development raises red flags. Who is being watched? Who receives personal information? Is this likely to remain safe?
What do you think?
– Ben Johnson, The White House Watch