The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) expanded the authority of personnel to collect information on people they say are threatening to harm or destroy public monuments, The Washington Post reported Monday.
The guidance obtained by the Post allows DHS to expand beyond its traditional authority to keep landmarks safe from terrorist attacks. The document comes as federal officers have been sent to Portland, Ore., to respond to those demonstrating against police brutality.
The guidance, first reported by the blog Lawfare, is described as “job aid” for enforcing President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump goes after Cassidy after saying he wouldn't support him for president in 2024 Jan. 6 panel lays out criminal contempt case against Bannon Hillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Agencies sound alarm over ransomware targeting agriculture groups MORE’s executive order last month that protects monuments from vandalism, as protests had targeted monuments for Confederate officers or other historical figures that demonstrators consider problematic.
The document appears to reference current intelligence activities for “personnel collecting and reporting on various activities in the context of elevated threats targeting monuments, memorials, and statues,” according to the Post.
The guidance also seems to allow personnel to monitor social media posts and other public information sources to watch individuals or groups DHS says might “damage or destroy any public monument, memorial, or statue.”
The DHS document, which was unclassified and came from the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, does not specify what types of monuments or statues it applies to or require they be on federal property, according to the Post.
The department requires personnel to explain why a person would need to be monitored and not to depend on “hunches and intuitions, which are insufficient.”
The document does not allow the detention of protesters but says personnel can obtain information about people’s or group’s “tactics, techniques, or procedures.” Methods like “physical surveillance, the use of mail covers, and the use of monitoring devices” that cannot be hidden, are permitted.
Some of the methods are usually limited to U.S. citizens thought “to be engaged in or preparing for espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassination on behalf of a foreign power, organization, or person.” It’s unclear how this applies to those protesting monuments, the Post noted.
The guidance does not allow information collecting “for the sole purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment.”
Any information gathered on U.S. citizens is required to be deleted after 180 days if it doesn’t assist a government mission, but it can be given to federal government agencies, state and local groups and private-sector organizations that work in law enforcement, counterterrorism and homeland security operations, according to the newspaper.
DHS did not immediately return a request for comment.
The department has fallen under scrutiny for its involvement in the Portland protests with local officials requesting the administration remove federal officers from the area.