Documents have been uncovered revealing the Department of Homeland Security, run by Janet Napolitano under Barack Obama’s direction, is monitoring dozens of popular websites such as Facebook, Twitter, the Drudge Report, the Middle East Media Research Institute, and Jihad Watch, and is collecting “personally identifiable information.”
The documents first were uncovered by Reuters, and have been confirmed as genuine by Washington officials.
The government, the document said, “monitored publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites, and message boards to collect information used in providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture.”
Included in the information collected, the document confirmed, were “limited instances of personally identifiable information.” The data is used by the DHS and other agencies including the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The full list of sites included Vimeo, YouTube and Myspace Video. Also on the list are Stormpulse, Flickr, TwitterAPI, Radio on Twitter, TV on Twitter, TweetStats, AllAfrica, CNOnews, Cryptome, Global Security Newswire, Google Blog, Homeland Security Today, Jihad Watch, MEMRI, MS-13 News, Plowshares Fund, STRATFOR, Science Daily and dozens of others.
The spy operation was “permitted to collect PII on the following categories of individuals when it lends credibility to the report or facilities coordination with federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, foreign, or international government partners:”
It listed six categories:
- U.S. and foreign individuals in extreme situations involving potential life or death circumstances
- Senior U.S. and foreign government officials who make public statements or provide public updates
- U.S. Foreign government spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates
- U.S. and foreign private sector officials and spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates
- Names 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 situationally aware and informed
- Terrorists, drug cartel leaders, or other persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest.
Even though “PII inadvertently or incidentally collected” is supposed to be redacted immediately – “12 email reports inadvertently included unnecessary PII or potential PII…”
Those compilations of data have been going and continue to be delivered to “federal employees, contractors, and private sector and international partners who have requested and been approved to receive notifications based on job description and a need-to-know the information…”
Reuters reported a DHS official “familiar with the monitoring program” reported it was meant to allow government officials to be aware of major and developing events “to which the department or its agencies might have to respond.”
The government documents reveal the plans are for the information to be held “for no more than five years.”
Other sites on the list are ABC News’ “The Blotter;” blogs about bird flu; news blogs, and sites that follow wildfires and hurricanes.
Cryptome, one of the first websites to post information related to the Homeland Security monitoring program, is on the list.
Jihad Watch monitors Islam and its advances in the free world.