U.S. Government executes covert surveillance on media networks: Journalists under strict scrutiny and watch
The United States Government’s cabinet-level national security agency, Department of Homeland Security has ensured keeping dibs on who is saying what and why. The department’s National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative is going out of their way to spend time, money and resources on watching over those that help bring news to the masses.
The NOC and its Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) collects personal information of news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audiences situationally aware and informed.”
To this category, surveillance is extended to what foreign officials say, why and for what purpose.
Apart from monitoring ‘foreign officials’, It has been revealed that the Department of Homeland security (DHS) is mainly tracking media stories that "reflect adversely" on the U.S. government. Through these media stories profiles of journalists are gathered, why these journalists cover and write particular stories, and the effect of those stories.
Also included in the roster of those subjected to the spying are government officials, domestic or not, who make public statements, private sector employees that do the same and “persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest,” which to itself opens up the possibilities even wider.
Whereas the Department of Defense is charged with military actions abroad, the Department of Homeland Security works in the civilian sphere to protect the United States within, at, and outside its borders. Its stated goal is to prepare for, prevent, and respond to domestic emergencies, particularly terrorism. On March 1, 2003, DHS absorbed the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and assumed its duties. In doing so, it divided the enforcement and services functions into two separate and new agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Citizenship and Immigration Services. The investigative divisions and intelligence gathering units of the INS and Customs Service were merged forming Homeland Security Investigations.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Privacy Office (PRIV) and OPS/NOC decided to further broaden the program’s capability to collect additional information, including limited instances of personally identifiable information (PII).
When one interprets the “personally identifiable information,” the activity is really no different from what a journalist gather his own news interests. The majority of the personally identifiable information refers to the collection of names of journalists and public speakers for the purpose of following those sources for news and other information.
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 United States 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 a well-known celebrity/influential/prominent or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.
All of the above and many more about U.S. Government’s strict surveillance of print and electronic media networks, ‘personally identifiable information’ about media personnel and foreign officials, what they say and where they get their news stories, why they go after such stories, and why the government wants to know what people say and who is saying what were disclosed as a result of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law suit instituted by a Washington-based public interest research center Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
On a court order, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was legally bound under the FOIA to disclose the ‘monitoring program’ which was put in place since February 2011. The DHS, on court order, disclosed the 285-page document on January 11.
What was revealed in the DHS document that was placed before the court under the FOIA law suit was that the program would be executed, in part, by individuals who established fictitious usernames and passwords to create covert social media profiles to spy on other users.
As the result of EPIC v. DHS, a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, EPIC has obtained nearly three hundred pages of documents detailing a Department of Homeland Security's covert surveillance program on print and electronic media, other web sites and journalists attached to them. The documents include contracts and statements of work with General Dynamics, a private security/research company, for 24/7 media and social network monitoring and periodic reports to DHS.
The documents reveal that the agency is tracking media stories that "reflect adversely" on the U.S. government.
The records reveal that the DHS is paying General Dynamics to monitor the news. The agency instructed the company to monitor for "[media] reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government, DHS, or prevent, protect, respond government activities."
The DHS document says: “….provide valuable information/imagery that can be used to corroborate and/or reconcile first reports. The Contractor shall understand DHS critical information requirements and monitor open sources news coverage for ne incidents and with a perspective of how a story may be related to other important ongoing events and DHS activities. The Critical Information Requirements (CIR) are: Potential threats and hazards to the homeland, to DHS, other Federal agencies, state and local response units, facilities, and resources; Private sector; Public safety; Identifying events with operational values and/or corroborating critical information; Identifying media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government, DHS or prevent, protect, respond or recovery activities.”
The DHS, in this media monitoring endeavor, is attempting to "capture public reaction to major government proposals with homeland security implications."
As another strategic devise, the DHS instructed the media monitoring company, General Dynamics, to generate "reports on DHS, Components, and other Federal Agencies: positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc. as well as organizations outside the DHS."
These are all in the 285-page Department of Homeland security (DHS) document.
The DHS instructed the company to "Monitor public social communications on the Internet." The records list the websites that will be monitored, including the comments sections of The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report, Wired, and ABC News. "
Under the DHS operational plan now revealed, the United States government is engaged in the collection of information of the following persons, what they say or write and why;
The names/profiles of anchors, newscasters, or on-scene reporters who are known or identified as reporters in their post or article or who use traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationaly aware and informed.
This surveillance is also extended to foreign government officials who make public statements or provide public updates; foreign government spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates; foreign private sector officials and spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates.
The Drudge Report, a major Internet News Web site which is also on the DHS list of surveillance in a comment said “It just sounds scary because, well … it’s the government. And while it’s healthy to be skeptical of government, people – especially journalists – must practice restraint and resist the urge to whip others into a frenzy over what amounts to browsing news stories to stay abreast of current events and activities.”
- Asian Tribune -