DHS Paid Contractor $1.16M to Monitor Social Networks, News Media, Blogs & Comments for Dissent

A Freedom of Information Act (‘FOIA’) lawsuit (below) by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (‘EPIC’) reveals that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security paid contractors to monitor Facebook, Twitter other social networks, blogs, and comments on news media websites.

The documents (below) disclose that the federal government paid at least $1.16 million to private contractor General Dynamics to monitor social networks, blogs, and news media sites for “public reaction to major governmental proposals with homeland security implications.” That’s government bureaucratic-speak for public dissent.

The legal implications of U.S. social networking surveillance programs tracking dissent of its own citizens, even with open source tools, are deeply disturbing.

The DHS activities are one of the key reasons why the U.S. Senate created the Church Committee in the 1970’s to investigate why federal agencies were investigating political dissent, spying on American’s who disagreed with U.S. policies.

Frank ChurchMore than 35 years ago, the Church Committee, headed by Idaho Democratic Senator Frank Church (Inset; Source: U.S. Senate) concluded that Americans had a “need for perpetual surveillance of the intelligence community” to prevent similar unlawful monitoring of Americans in the future. This resulted in the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a Committee that should have oversight of the kinds of wrongs that EPIC found DHS’s lawsuit found out have been perpetrated DHS and contractors at General Dynamics

What are some of the things that DHS paid and tasked General Dynamics to monitor? Take a look:

    ¶ 4.1.1 The Contractor shall perform a broad open sources search for information on breaking news stories. The contractor shall:

  • 4.1.1.1 Monitor major broadcast networks
  • 4.1.1.2 Monitor and review all Associated Press (AP) stories generated within the U.S. by each state’s AP bureau
  • 4.1.1.3 Monitor and receive alerts on local and regional broadcast news via categorized/focused text/video feeds
  • 4.1.1.4 Monitor and receive alerts on other wire service stories via categorized/focused Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds
  • 4.1.1.5 Monitor appropriate Internet web sites on breaking situational events
  • 4.1.1.6 Monitor and receive full motion video (FMV) or other streaming media

If an “incident” occurred — a “National Security Situation / International Security Situation (NSS/ISS)” — General Dynamics had to continue working on the six items above, in addition to:

  • 4.1.2.5 Query and search the Internet using other search engines such as Google and Yahoo
  • 4.1.2.8 Continue to monitor/review reports available via above open sources for information on other breaking news stories

Here are some of the documents disclosed in EPIC’s FOIA litigation against the DHS:

DHS Responses to EPIC’s FOIA Request

Here is the complaint (below) and case docket in EPIC’s FOIA lawsuit recently filed against DHS:

Complaint: Electronic Privacy Information Center v. U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security

  • JASMIN HADZIC

    IF YOU GUYS ARE MORE WORRIED ABOUT HOMELAND SECURITY, WHY NOT USE THAT MONEY(1.16M) TO HELP I DON’T KNOW CREATE MORE JOBS, STOP ALL DRUG TRAFFICKING,HELP THE HOMELESS. MAYBE EVEN HELP THE U.S. GET BETTER HEALTH CARE, BECAUSE GUANTANAMO BAY PRISONERS HAVE 10X BETTER HEALTH CARE COVERAGE THAN THE U.S. TRY TO HELP THE U.S. BE A NATION AND STOP DIVIDING US INTO GROUPS AND THINKING THAT WERE THE ONES THAT WANT TO HURT OUR NATION. BE MORE CONSERVATIVE TOWARDS YOUR PEOPLE AND STOP TREATING THEM LIKE ANIMALS.

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  • Dahna Chandler

    This is a good start but the fact is that DHS is either paying or government contractors are misappropriating funds for far more dangerous spying and surveillance activities than just online spying. There is ample evidence that COINTELPRO-like activities continue to be conducted against American citizens of all stripes and NDAA will likely be used to begin “snatching” Americans targeted for this surveillance (and often, outright stalking) activity from the streets of this nation for protesting the criminal activity being conducted against them.

    So, I would like to see far more aggressive investigation of DHS and other agency activity, including pulling of FOIAs related to complaints about such activities made to these agencies, that identify these ‘programs’ and the targets of these kinds of criminal enterprises.

  • OccupyTabs

    doesn’t anyone question the term “Homeland”???? It should ring some major bells, the Nazi’s referred to Germany as the Homeland!!!!!!