The Biden administration is considering using outside firms to track Americans online, according to a new report from CNN. Because it is a clear violation of the Constitution for the government to spy on citizens without a warrant, the Biden administration is attempting to skirt the law by having contractors spy on us.
The Department of Homeland Security is limited in how it can monitor citizens online without justification and is banned from activities like assuming false identities to gain access to private messaging apps used by extremist groups such as the Proud Boys or Oath Keepers.
Instead, federal authorities can only browse through unprotected information on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and other open online platforms.
The plan being discussed inside DHS, according to multiple sources, would, in effect, allow the department to circumvent those limits. A source familiar with the effort said it is not about decrypting data but rather using outside entities who can legally access these private groups to gather large amounts of information that could help DHS identify key narratives as they emerge.
By partnering with research firms who have more visibility in this space, the DHS could produce information that would likely be beneficial to both it and the FBI, which can’t monitor US citizens in this way without first getting a warrant or having the pretext of an ongoing investigation. The CIA and NSA are also limited on collecting intelligence domestically.
Tom Warrick, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council who served as DHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Counterterrorism Policy from 2008 until 2019, told CNN, he would expect DHS to “explore whether contractors could help them understand plots and trends” emerging online.
“Whatever gets approved and implemented has to comply with established laws,” he said, noting that DHS can only use overt methods to gather information from social media or collect information that is publicly available.
Researchers who already monitor such activity online could act as middlemen to obtain the information. DHS officials maintain the materials provided would only consist of broad summaries or analysis of narratives that are emerging on these sites and would not be used to target specific individuals.
But some of the research firms and non-profit groups under consideration by the DHS periodically use covert identities to access private social media groups like Telegram, and others used by domestic extremist groups. That thrusts DHS into a potential legal gray area even as it plugs an intelligence gap that critics say contributed to the failure to predict the assault on the Capitol.
As you might imagine, right-thinking Americans on social media are justifiably outraged and are calling it what it is, fascism and communism.
This is COMMUNISM! They are spying on people who do not agree with their socialist/communist agenda. Other countries can see what's happening to us. Wake up folks!
— Landa (@demplantation) May 3, 2021
Biden’s America: target free speech from those that oppose your radical agenda. Right out of Nazi training 101.
— JJ Freedom (@JJFreedom7) May 3, 2021
Still, many liberals online appear ignorant of our constitutional rights and say they are comfortable being spied on by government contractors.
Why would surveillance to catch criminals be so bad? If you don’t have something to hide why are you complaining?
— Grant Riley (@grantresists) May 3, 2021
The root cause of this seems to be an American population that increasingly embraces and trusts big government and rejects individual liberties and freedom. This shift may be the result of two generations of public school and higher education curricula that failed to teach students the basics of our Constitution and liberties. Instead, more time was focused on denigrating our Founding Fathers and celebrating anarchists such as Malcolm X.
As Ronald Reagan predicted back in 1975, the totalitarian impulse to deny freedom of thought and expression is coming from the left. We must send a clear message to our leaders in Washington that government spying on citizens without due cause will not be tolerated.
Catherine Mortensen is Vice President of Americans for Limited Government.
Cross-posted with The Daily Torch
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