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DHS spokesman dismisses critics of agency's media monitoring plan as 'conspiracy theorists'

DHS spokesman dismisses critics of agency's media monitoring plan as 'conspiracy theorists'
© Greg Nash

A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday pushed back against a report warning of the agency's plan to compile a list of media professionals and influencers as part of a "media monitoring" effort.

The plan outlined in a FedBizOpps.gov posting by DHS this week says the agency will create a database of "any and all media coverage" related to the agency or specific events, with a list of more than 290,000 global news sources searchable by location and individual reporters. 

A Forbes report pegged the plan as an encroachment on the free press by the federal government, and suggested it may be a response to Russia's cyberattacks and meddling during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

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Responding to a tweet from the Committee to Protect Journalists, which shared the Forbes report, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton suggested that critics who cited the department's news tracking plan as a supposed attack on the press were "conspiracy theorists."

"Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media," Houlton tweeted.

"Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists."

In the Forbes article, author Michelle Fabio argued the DHS move would give opponents of the free press too much information on individual reporters.

She called the move "enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide."

"And 'attack' is not hyperbolic," she added.