Skip to main content

The Washington Post has an article this morning on DHS Monitoring of Social Media Concerns Civil Liberties Advocates, which discusses the Department of Homeland Security's 3-year-old practice of monitoring social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

Predictably,

[a] senior DHS official said the department does not monitor dissent or gather reports tracking citizens' views.

Maybe DHS doesn't, but the State Department does.  I represent a State Department 23-year-veteran for the Foreign Service, Peter Van Buren, where the State Department admits that it does precisely that: monitor his personal Internet activity on his home computer during his private time.

Peter Van Buren wrote a book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (Metropolitan Books 2011), which is highly critical of our gross reconstruction fraud in Iraq.  It went through pre-publication review and the State Department approved it by default by letting its own 30-day review period expire.  

A month before the publication of his book, Mr. Van Buren began to experience a series of adverse personnel actions, which are ongoing today.

The State Department tried a variety of different tactics to censor Mr. Van Buren's book and prevent him from promoting it.  After vague references to ethics rules failed, it tried threats of criminal action.  After those failed, it started coming down on his blogs (which had been posted since April 2011 without criticism) and LIVE media appearances, saying they needed to be pre-cleared.  

There are many incarnations of the State Department's increasingly-restrictive policies regarding linking--not leaking--to WikiLeaks documents, with which they tried to jack up Van Buren.  But now he is getting his own personal "compliance letters" that say things like:

You must comply fully with applicable policies and regulations regarding official clearance of public speeches, writings and teaching materials, including blogs, tweets and other communications via social media, on matters of official concern, whether prepared in an official or private capacity.
(Emphasis added)

Although hundreds of State Department employees write blogs (the State Department even links to the ones it likes), and thousands have Facebook accounts, Mr. Van Buren has been told (the government usually doesn't admit this) that all his Internet activity on his personal computer in his private capacity is being monitored.

This is outrageous. I recommend that the democracy-loving, Internet-freedom-promoting State Department read the First Amendment.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (19+ / 0-)

    The Canary in the Coalmine is available for purchase at patriotictruthteller.net

    by Jesselyn Radack on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 06:15:18 AM PST

  •  My facebook wall (8+ / 0-)

    is intensely political, which should surprise no one. This morning, it occurred to me that I hadn't seen any activity or heard in any way from a friend IRL who now has a......"job with the federal government..." I'll leave it at that.
    Upon investigation, I'd discovered he'd unfriended me.
    Curious, that.

    "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State ..."- Vermont Constitution Chapter 1, Article 16

    by kestrel9000 on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 06:19:41 AM PST

    •  The Stasi would love this! (8+ / 0-)

      The Canary in the Coalmine is available for purchase at patriotictruthteller.net

      by Jesselyn Radack on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 06:29:58 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for the diary... (6+ / 0-)

        Yours are always must-read.

        Although this story is deeply disturbing, it doesn't surprise me one bit. The people have just figured out how to use social media as a tool for organizing and strengthening relationships with like-minded activists, and our government turns it around and uses it against us.

        During the Bush regime, I used to regularly say that I wanted my country back. Three years into the Obama administration, and every time I read a story like this... I find myself still saying it.

        That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons of history. ~ Aldous Huxley

        by markthshark on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 07:02:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  who needs the Stasi when there's Facebook? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Deep Harm

        Why put a person in prison, when you can put the prison in the person instead?  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:41:52 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Maybe he just disagrees with incessantly (0+ / 0-)

      attacking the Prez and the Party with unprincipled hyperbole?

      You wouldn't do That, would you?

      Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle.

      by Radical def on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 06:45:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  "Incessantly attacking the Prez and the Party..." (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        buddabelly, Radical def, G2geek, Lujane

        ?????????

        You have me confused with someone else?

        Usually, people bust on me for being an Obama fanboi type.

        That's not really fair either, though..............

        "That the people have a right to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State ..."- Vermont Constitution Chapter 1, Article 16

        by kestrel9000 on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 06:54:47 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  If someone "de-friends" you (8+ / 0-)

          because they're tired of reading your updates, that's their choice.

          If someone de-friends you because they're afraid their government agency would disagree with their choice of friends, that's chills freedom of association and free expression--both constitutionally protected activities.

          The Canary in the Coalmine is available for purchase at patriotictruthteller.net

          by Jesselyn Radack on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 06:58:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  oic...kk, just wondering, not knowing you (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kestrel9000, G2geek

          I know I have cut some people loose, for that reason.

          It's hard to keep track of who's who, without keeping lists, or reviewing a person's profile, diaries and comments each time...perhaps I should have checked you out a bit, before speculating...

          I recognized your name from frequent postings, but not your specific tendency, heh.  Sorry if I seemed to cast unfair dispersions.

          Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle.

          by Radical def on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:09:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Aspersions. (0+ / 0-)

            The hilarity of this thread is beyond my meager abilities to describe in words.

            Fear is your only God.

            by JesseCW on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:26:36 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  oww...not only am I stupid, I'm ignorant! (0+ / 0-)

              300

              And I'll prove it, perhaps, to some, heh:

              While I tend to agree that they don't always seem to exercise the correct criteria and motivations for their surveillance, I do have some mixed feelings about this general issue, overall.

              To the extent that they have tended to use such practices to harass and suppress legitimate organizations and activists, I'm against it, of course.  

              The Prez and Congress should strictly supervise and regulate any such activities, to prevent and severely punish abuses.

              However, I also find that a great deal of the most hysterical screaming about these issues is often coming from the right, who are scared to death that their genuinely traitorous, terrorist activities will be suppressed...

              I have absolutely no sympathy for any supposed "right" to be a racist terrorist nazi pig, running amok, armed to the teeth with military weapons, ya know?

              Nor for any other genuine terrorists, from the Middle East, or whatever.

              If it comes down to it, I'd rather see them go ahead on, and suppress the right, and other genuine terrorists, even if that also means that the Very few extremists on the left, environmental, etc. other movements who are advocating insurrectionary activities (and who are thus most likely agents provocateur, anyway) also get some heat.

              There Must be Some way to control such government surveillance activities, so they don't just become a tool of parochial elements within the apparatus, to pursue their own agendas, like the local "red squad" many cities have, to attack everyone on the left, regardless of whether they are really a threat or not.

              As long as we have a dictatorship of right wing majorities in the House and Senate, obviously deployment of surveillance will be skewed against the left.

              But if we purge and suppress their jive asses, democratically, electorally, legislatively and judicially, the prospects for civil war, for real, from the right, will increase exponentially.

              Under such circumstances, I would want Obama to retain the necessary executive powers, to bring the black helicopters and throw open the FEMA camps, should that prove necessary, which it very well might.

               

              Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle.

              by Radical def on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:24:57 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  As long as the right peoples rights are violated (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                LaEscapee, TheMomCat, priceman

                it's ok?

                Really?

                That's what the last guys supporters said.

                Fear is your only God.

                by JesseCW on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 07:59:55 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Yeah that was hard to read (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  priceman, JesseCW

                  Not really sure how that fantasy ends but I'm pretty sure that it's not positive.

                  ...it is possible in America to govern entirely on the appearance of principle--while changing absolutely nothing~Matt Taibbi

                  by LaEscapee on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:31:56 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                •  That's a good one, lol (0+ / 0-)

                  "Nazis are citizens too! They have Rights!"

                  I don't think so. I think they forfeit their civil rights, by the very nature of their "beliefs".  

                  Fuck a whole bunch of Nazis.

                  I think everyone has Human rights, even psychopathic misanthropes.

                  I don't propose being mean to them.

                  However, I don't think they should be allowed to run amok.

                  I do think everyone should get a fair trial.

                  We'll treat them far better than they have Ever treated us.

                  Seems to me, Bush supporters are anti-democratic traitors.

                  I see no legitimate comparison, between them and, say, Obama supporters.

                  Fuck a whole bunch of fascist Republicans, and their fundamentalist nutjob supporters.

                  As for those on the extreme left who would also declare themselves our enemies, why should we treat them as friends, especially when their shit-headed electoral boycott and splitting lines would just hand the power over to the Republicans?

                  They are enemy agents provocateur, or their dupes.

                  Fuck them too.

                  Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle.

                  by Radical def on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 10:47:22 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Dude you need to chill out (0+ / 0-)

                    Pretty sure nobody wants to live in the world you describe. I know I don't.  

                    ...it is possible in America to govern entirely on the appearance of principle--while changing absolutely nothing~Matt Taibbi

                    by LaEscapee on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 12:26:12 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Maybe you'd like a war with Iran? (0+ / 0-)

                      If we don't seize the power in November, the whole world is screwed.

                      The ice caps are melting faster and faster.

                      And you want to argue about whether we should suppress the Right?

                      Love it or Leave it, "escapee".

                      I decided long ago to stay and fight this out...to the death.

                      Death to Fascism!

                      Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle.

                      by Radical def on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 12:55:46 AM PST

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  "Seize Power"???? (0+ / 0-)

                        Really?

                        How are we going to stop ice caps from melting by re-electing an administration that just (successfully) fought tooth and nail to prevent any further action on climate change for 10 years?

                        Why should I trust you to determine who ought to be supressed?  Whose rights ought to be ignored?

                        Fear is your only God.

                        by JesseCW on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 09:41:55 AM PST

                        [ Parent ]

                  •  They are, and they do. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    LaEscapee

                    Once you accept the notion that anyone exists who has no rights, you accept the possibility of being placed in the category you've created.

                    The question is never whether we treat someone better than they've treated us the question is whether we've treated them justly.

                    You're offering a textbook example of Authoritarian Follower right now in a way that makes me suspect that you're probably pulling my leg.

                    Fear is your only God.

                    by JesseCW on Sun Jan 15, 2012 at 09:39:54 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

                •  I see priceman is in the house... (0+ / 0-)

                  What's your price, man?

                  You want to advance a "Nazis have rights!!!1!" line too?

                  Democracy is the most fundamental revolutionary principle.

                  by Radical def on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 11:52:20 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

  •  you, dear reader, are not.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Deep Harm

    ... a 23-year veteran of the State Department, who no doubt had TS/SCI clearance and access to enough goodies to keep a dozen Bradley Mannings busy for a decade.

    No matter how important you think you are, truth is, you aren't.  You're just another worker bee who has to be kept on the treadmill producing wealth for faceless sociopaths, until you can be stuffed into a nursing home to produce wealth for a different crop of faceless sociopaths.  

    So no, you do not deserve your own personal case officer monitoring your every peep and poop in cyberspace.

    What you get instead, is "bulk collection," where your personal data are worth a few cents to a few dollars, to whatever advertising agencies and profilers and coporate spook tanks are willing to purchase them.  

    Some day you might get turned down for a job because of that asinine but harmless photo you posted on Failbook, or turned down for something else because of the drunken tweet you emitted on your birthday.  Some day you might get fired for your political views, posted here and discovered via textual analysis that can fingerprint you with such a small sample of your text that you'd wet your pants if you knew.  

    When those things happen, you won't be able to get a high-profile lawyer, much less an article in the Washington Pest.

    Meanwhile your electric company is compiling a dossier on you from your smart meter, that's as accurate as if they had video cameras in your house, except that they don't get to see your face or the rest of you when you step out of the shower.  Though in theory they can figure out what you're watching on TV, and assign you to lifestyle categories based on that information.

    And your prescription drugs are being monitored by the credit bureaux, as they now count toward your credit rating.  

    So in truth you are like a dog with flea anemia, beset by so many private-sector parasites it's a wonder you have enough blood left for your heart to pump.  

    And while all this is happening, you're busy fretting about DHS.  

    "Look! a squirrel!"

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:36:02 AM PST

    •  When the private sector assumes the legal (0+ / 0-)

      right to order us executed without trial or charge at any time, in any place, let me know.

      Fear is your only God.

      by JesseCW on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:10:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  homeless + hungry = death in the slow lane. (0+ / 0-)

        And the homeless serve another purpose: as a warning to the rest of the sheep to stay in the flock, not put their heads up, and not make any trouble.

        Merely disappearing someone is hardly as useful a means of enforcing conformity, as having them show up pushing all their worldly belongings in a shopping cart, looking as if they haven't showered or changed their clothes in a week.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 07:19:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Indeed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek

      Moreover, the private sector and shill media lately have been  urging people to use Facebook accounts as job hunting references. A nice little trap for those naive enough to fall for it.

      •  Facebook is an evil surveillance machine. (0+ / 0-)

        The only legitimate rationale for any progressive to use it, is as a publicity amplifier for political campaigns.

        Otherwise, stay far far away.  

        Don't even visit Failbook pages: they plant flash cookies on your computer that aren't susceptible to normal cookie deletion and typically track you for a month or longer.  

        Mark Zuckerberg deserves to, as Jimmy Carter once said of Jerry Falwell, "go to Hell in a most Christian way."  The sooner the better.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 07:21:38 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  so, dear reader, want to fight back? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    adrianrf, Russgirl, Deep Harm

    The best investment of your time and beer money you can make, is to join the Electronic Frontier Foundation.  Think of them as the ACLU for cyberspace, but instead of just reacting to cases, they go on the attack, and have a damn good track record of wins.  

    http://www.eff.org

    Don't complain that there's no privacy.

    Don't complain that freedom of speech is being stifled.

    Don't complain that your friends are selling out and leaving you so they don't get pegged for having "radicals" as friends.

    Do something about it.   Roll up your sleeves and FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 08:40:23 AM PST

    •  Fight Fight Fight to protect and defend (0+ / 0-)

      the administration that's doing this and to pretend that corporate customer profiling is the same thing as government surveillance?

      Funny way to "fight", that.

      Fear is your only God.

      by JesseCW on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 09:11:49 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  so I have a question for you: (0+ / 0-)

        Do you think you're important enough to be disappeared to Gitmo?  

        Or do you think you're ordinary enough to merely be denied a job and a roof over your head?  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Sat Jan 14, 2012 at 07:23:29 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  There are, actually, some good reasons (0+ / 0-)

    for the monitoring described in the Washington Post article.  Monitoring public social networking communications proved helpful in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake for locating areas that needed help and determining specifically what kind of help to send.  But, newspapers don't bother to consult specialists anyway, it seems, before writing on a subject.

    Of course, the government will likely treat OWS and other protests as emergencies also worthy of its monitoring, so there is unquestionably a political aspect to it all, no matter what the government spokespersons say.

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site