March 15, 2012, 12:49 PM — Don’t want the spooks spying on your Facebook or Twitter accounts? Don’t diss the Department of Homeland Security – or really, any Federal agency – in public.
Last year, the DHS acknowledged it was scanning social media as well as mainstream media for “operationally relevant data” – in order to detect, say, the next Arab spring or Japanese tsunami or SARS outbreak before they see it on CNN. But according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the spooks are also on the lookout for people being openly critical of the government.
In testimony before Congress last month, Richard Chavez, a senior DHS executive, strongly denied using the agency’s social media monitoring tools to identify speech critical of the government.
The guidelines the DHS issues for monitoring, however – obtained by EPIC via a Freedom of Information Act request -- tell a different story. Among the criteria for creating an Incident of Interest report are “identifying media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities,” as well as “policy directives, debates, and implementations related to DHS.”
It goes on:
“Reports that pertain to DHS and sub agencies - especially those that have a negative spin on DHS/Component preparation, planning, and response activities should be reported to management before being sent to the distribution list. Senior TSI personnel will decide whether the information should be reported through normal channels.”
So even if your post dissing the DEA or the FAA never makes it into the official incident report, it will be seen by the top brass at the agency (identified only as “Brad, Mitch, or Ray” in that doc).
That 39-page document [PDF] also lists more than 300 keywords the DHS monitors to search news reports, tweets and updates. Included among them are the names of every US Federal enforcement agency and many popular recreational drugs, as well as common words like “cops,” “threat,” “exercise,” “initiative,” “power,” “smart,” “pork,” and “social media.”
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