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The Department of Homeland Security got the OK to collect personal information on journalists, reporters, and anyone who posts anything on Daily Kos. As I write this the National Operations Center’s Media Monitoring Initiative may already be collecting and archiving your and my personal information. Daily Kos is now under National Operations Center’s  scrutiny.  

Homeland Security monitors journalists

07 January, 2012

Freedom of speech might allow journalists to get away with a lot in America, but the Department of Homeland Security is on the ready to make sure that the government is keeping dibs on who is saying what.

Under the National Operations Center (NOC)’s Media Monitoring Initiative that came out of DHS headquarters in November, Washington has the written permission to retain data on users of social media and online networking platforms.

Specifically, the DHS announced the NCO and its Office of Operations Coordination and Planning (OPS) can collect personal information from news anchors, journalists, reporters or anyone who may use “traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.”

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 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 someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.

This very disturbing report is all but invisible in the U.S. media. It was first reported by R.T. and ironically only the biggest boosters of the national security state, Fox News has run the story here.

From the Chicago Examiner:

Twitter ordered to sing like a bird and journalists to stop

Cynthia Hodges, Homeland Security
January 6, 2012

To sum it up, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will keep tabs on who says what from now on. The department says that they will only scour publically-made info available while retaining data, but why invest the time, resources and especially the money towards the effort?

Over the years, without exception studies have shown that in countries where the government controls the media, citizens tend to be politically ignorant and apathetic. In one recent study a researcher goes a step further, revealing why this is beneficial to government.

From the DHS website:

monitoring initiative.pdf

Collection of Information

Requirement:  OPS/NOC is permitted  to  collect PII on the following categories of
individuals when it lends credibility to the report or facilitates coordination with federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, foreign, or international government partners
:  1) U.S. and foreign individuals in extremis situations involving potential life or death circumstances; 2) senior U.S. and foreign government officials who make public statements or provide public updates; 3) U.S. and foreign government spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates; 4) U.S. and foreign private sector officials and spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates; 5) 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; 6) current and former public officials who are victims of incidents or activities related to Homeland Security; and 7) terrorists, drug cartel leaders, or other persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest.  PII inadvertently or incidentally collected outside the scope of these discrete set of categories of individuals shall be redacted immediately before further use and sharing.
Review:   During a PCR preparatory self-inspection, MMC discovered that, between
December 1, 2010 and August 22, 2011, twelve email reports (IOIs) inadvertently

From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Mexican Newspaper Uncovers Systemic Monitoring Plans of Public Online Sources  


While the monitoring envisioned by the report is broad in scope, the initiative includes a number of safeguards that attempt to address privacy concerns. But these safeguards do not go far enough. Furthermore, while the NOC is attempting to limit the circumstances under which agents are permitted to collect or disclose personal data, these limitations only apply to DHS agents operating under this specific initiative. DHS “may use social media for other purposes enforcement, intelligence, and other operations...” Other U.S. government agencies and initiatives have different rules and regulations that are subject to change.

With respect to the safeguards, NOC agents on social networks are prohibited from “post[ing] information, actively seek[ing] to connect..., accept[ing]... invitations to connect, or interact[ing] with others” including, presumably, responding to messages sent by other users. It is not clear, however, that this prohibition is sustainable in light of the NOC's objective. For example, NOC agents are authorized to “establish user names and passwords to form profiles and follow relevant government, media, and subject matter experts on social media sites.” Social networking sites are premised on the concept of “interacting with others.” Distinctions such as ‘following’ a user on Twitter and ‘connecting’ with such a user are not clear-cut.

Genuine attempts are being made to limit monitoring to publicly available information while excluding private sources. For example, agents may be prohibited from collecting information found on Facebook profiles which are restricted to “friends only.” However, problems may arise with respect to more ambiguous “semi-public” spaces that are emerging in many online venues. If NOC agents are authorized to “follow” a user on Twitter, are they allowed to “friend” a Facebook (or Google+) user whose profile contains purely public “relevant government, media, and subject matter”? What about information posted by other people following that user under the extended “friends of friends” setting? The NOC initiative may find it difficult to navigate such distinctions.

Monitoring of purely public online information to assess situational threats can also lead to abuse. During the G20 meeting in Toronto, Canada, police monitoring of real-time on the ground social media interactions was used to locate and arrest large numbers of peaceful protesters.

Casting such a wide a net that it could potentially open up users here on Daily Kos to DHS data mining is obscene and unacceptable. We must put a halt to this assault on our first amendment rights. 

Call the White House 202-456-1111

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