Warren calls for DHS watchdog to probe surveillance of family separation protests

Warren calls for DHS watchdog to probe surveillance of family separation protests
© Greg Nash

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenHarris weighing Biden endorsement: report Biden, Sanders contend for top place in new national poll Biden leads Democratic primary field nationally: poll MORE (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) Tuesday requesting an investigation into a report that the agency monitored protests against the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the border.

The request comes after The Intercept reported Monday that that the Virginia-based firm LookingGlass Cyber Solutions gathered information on over 600 demonstrations against the White House’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy last June and handed over detailed information to DHS officials.

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“This most recent reporting raises questions about the government surveillance of Americans exercising their constitutional rights to organize peacefully and protest a cruel and unjust policy that does not make America safer or improve our immigration system and asylum process,” Warren, who is running for president, wrote. 

“I am very concerned about the nature of this surveillance and the potentially dangerous mischaracterization of peaceful and lawful public dissent and political demonstration as a national security threat requiring government monitoring and intelligence gathering via social media.” 

Warren asked the DHS IG to investigate eight questions, including what legal authority DHS relied on to use information collected by LookingGlass and if any officials requested the information.

“When DHS I&A receives this type of information, we are required to share it consistent with DHS policy to ensure stakeholders have appropriate situational awareness regarding personnel, facilities, suspicious activities, emerging threats, incidents, operations, and operational capabilities affecting the Department or the Homeland Security Enterprise,” a DHS official told The Intercept, adding that the information was “unsolicited.” 

“In this particular instance, a private sector entity shared unsolicited information it collected through publicly available channels with DHS I&A on protests that were scheduled to take place near Federal facilities. Throughout the summer of 2018, the Department was at a heightened state of security due to ongoing protests outside of Federal facilities and physical threats to DHS employees which did result in a least one arrest," a DHS official said in a statement to The Hill.

“When DHS I&A receives this type of information, we are required to share it consistent with DHS policy to ensure stakeholders have appropriate situational awareness regarding personnel, facilities, suspicious activities, emerging threats, incidents, operations, and operational capabilities affecting the Department or the Homeland Security Enterprise.”