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.
More 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:
- 126.96.36.199 Monitor major broadcast networks
- 188.8.131.52 Monitor and review all Associated Press (AP) stories generated within the U.S. by each state’s AP bureau
- 184.108.40.206 Monitor and receive alerts on local and regional broadcast news via categorized/focused text/video feeds
- 220.127.116.11 Monitor and receive alerts on other wire service stories via categorized/focused Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds
- 18.104.22.168 Monitor appropriate Internet web sites on breaking situational events
- 22.214.171.124 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:
Here are some of the documents disclosed in EPIC’s FOIA litigation against the DHS:
Here is the complaint (below) and case docket in EPIC’s FOIA lawsuit recently filed against DHS: