As a known incendiary, I've gotten used to the constant hits from Homeland Security, even if they still bug me out every now and then. I'm used to having to ditch the sketchy black Lincoln tailing me all the way home from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors when I'm down there handing out informational flyers. I'm used to having my logs harassed by government contractors too stupid to block their own IP addresses. So this revelation that DHS is tracking American citizens using social media is really no surprise and, frankly, I'm shocked they aren't better at covering their own tracks.
Here's the sitch from Fast Company based on a hearing that went down today at a House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence:
According to testimony, the Homeland Security Department has outsourced their own social media monitoring program to an outside contractor, defense giant General Dynamics. General Dynamics was the sole party to the original DHS contract, which was not offered to any outside parties--and Chavez was caught misleading the Committee about General Dyamics' sole status.Since I'm sure tweets about how bad DC traffic sucks aren't exactly considered "breaking news," should I comfortably assume JDA's large and vocal Twitter presence is not being logged by DHS contractors as we speak? If it is, do I care? Let them clog up their servers with pics of my gay cats, food porn and snarky comments about how much the BW Parkway sucks if it makes them feel like they're fighting "terrorism" in the form of a concerned young American who doesn't like what the country she used to be proud to call her own has become.
General Dynamics employees responsible for the DHS social media monitoring contract are required to attend a training course in DHS privacy practices several times a year. If General Dynamics employees misuse the personal information of journalists, public figures or the general public (to include Twitter or Facebook users) in any way, their punishment is restricted to additional training classes or dismissal from the project.
General Dynamics and the Department of Homeland Security are primarily engaging in keyword monitoring of social media. Callahan admitted in sworn testimony that the bulk of the keywords used by DHS were chosen as the result of being included in commercially available, off-the-shelf bulk packages. These bulk keyword packages were later customized according to DHS specifications.
The DHS, meanwhile, is truly interested in breaking news tweets. The Twitter handles, Facebook names and blog urls of first witnesses to news events (the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords and a January 2012 bomb threat at an Austin, Texas, school were specifically cited) are being recorded. Homeland Security claims this information is only used to verify reports, and that dossiers are not being assembled on private citizens and that personally identifying information is regularly scrubbed from their servers.
Since the federal government admitted to there being "no credible or specific" threat against the people of the United States brewing in Iran, why not spend their time hoarding pictures of the gay cats belonging to vocal critics of the United States' reckless financial condition instead?
Here's the written testimony and the video of today's testimony for your viewing pleasure.