The Department of Homeland Security is limited in how it can monitor citizens online without justification and is banned from activities like assuming false identities to gain access to private messaging apps used by extremist groups such as the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers.
See, the problem they are trying to address is that whole cumbersome civil liberties thing.
Constantly gumming up the works.
Apparently these private messaging apps are not used by extremist groups like Antifa.
Besides, Antifa is not extremist.
Also, it's not a group.
Right now, the feds are hamstrung by the fact that they can't engage in mass surveillance of citizens that haven't been accused of any crime.
Instead, federal authorities can only browse through unprotected information on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and other open online platforms.
Think about it. People think they can just say whatever they want in private communications without those communications being vetted for correct thinking by the authorities.
No, if you want to go after the real threat in America, rural middle-class Americans who feel like their government has abandoned them, you have to get creative, and by creative, I mean illegal.
The plan being discussed inside DHS, according to multiple sources, would, in effect, allow the department to circumvent those limits.
See, it's illegal if they do it, but legal if they hire someone else to do it. Kind of like hiring an assassin so you don't have to do it yourself.
Okay, bad example.
A source familiar with the effort said it is not about decrypting data but rather using outside entities who can legally access these private groups to gather large amounts of information that could help DHS identify key narratives as they emerge.
See, private corporations could legally access these groups, and gather large amounts of information that they would then turn over to the people who are prohibited from doing that.
It's important that the political party in power monitor "key narratives," like, oh I don't know, the narrative that people don't like the political party in power?
By partnering with research firms who have more visibility in this space, the DHS could produce information that would likely be beneficial to both it and the FBI, which can't monitor US citizens in this way without first getting a warrant or having the pretext of an ongoing investigation. The CIA and NSA are also limited on collecting intelligence domestically.
Using private agents you pay as opposed to public agents you also pay, gets around the bother of having to first get permission from a judge in the judicial branch of government the purpose of which is to provide a check on the unbridled power of the executive branch, and in doing so, provides unbridled power to the executive branch.
But some of the research firms and non-profit groups under consideration by the DHS periodically use covert identities to access private social media groups like Telegram, and others used by domestic extremist groups. That thrusts DHS into a potential legal gray area even as it plugs an intelligence gap that critics say contributed to the failure to predict the assault on the Capitol.
They're not openly discussing subverting the law to get around the protections afforded every US citizen.
They're just trying to "plug an intelligence gap."
It sounds about 43% less terrifying when you put it that way.
FBI director Christopher Wray has been emphatic during recent public testimony that the bureau does not investigate ideologies or even conspiracy theories in and of themselves, but restricts its social media monitoring to cases where they believe a crime, or potential crime, was committed.
Of course not, that's ridiculous, they're not going to do that.
But if the DHS could help provide a broad picture of who was perpetuating the "narratives" of concern, the FBI could theoretically use that pool of information to focus on specific individuals if there is enough evidence of a potential crime to legally do so, the source added, noting the two agencies are working closely with one another in this area.
Also, they're going to do that.
If they can find willing external partners that would help provide access to private groups on these encrypted apps, DHS and its federal partners, including the FBI, would be able to legally identify potential domestic terrorists and access information that could inform investigative efforts, a source familiar with the effort told CNN.
Gathering information on US citizens -- no matter how abhorrent their beliefs...
I wonder what they mean by "abhorrent."
-- raises instant constitutional and legal challenges. Civil liberties advocates and privacy hawks have long criticized any efforts to collect even publicly available information on Americans in bulk as a violation of Americans' First and Fourth Amendment rights.
How the feds behaved in Portland last summer might be instructive.
The department -- then led by Trump appointees but staffed by career officials, some of whom remain on the job -- collected and disseminated open source reports on U.S. journalists who were publicly reporting on the protests. The department also sent analysts to Portland to question protesters, according to a public statement by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. -- a tactic seen by some as a government intrusion on Americans' First Amendment right to protest. Schiff also revealed that the DHS that protects federal property had requested that analysts "extract data" from phones seized from protesters without a warrant, a request that went unfulfilled
What kind of lesson can we learn from this kind of misbehavior?
If you're thinking that individual rights must be respected and the rule of law followed, you'd be thinking wrong.
No, the lesson the Biden administration learned is that they have to come up with a way to circumvent those restrictions.
Speaking of narratives...
This is a screen cap of the CNN story:
They decided to illustrate a story about Biden administration efforts to circumvent civil liberty protections as enshrined in the bill of rights, with a picture of a police officer who died of natural causes.
Are you paying attention?