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.
[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.