U.S. federal agencies including the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have been purchasing access to large databases of phone location data and hiding their motives in what Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) described as “warrantless surveillance” of Americans.
In a Thursday letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Wyden called on Austin to declassify all answers about the Department of Defense’s data collection practices. Wyden noted that of eight questions he raised with the DoD, he received unclassified answers to three questions, while the answers to the five remaining questions were offered in a classified manner.
“In February 2020, media reports revealed that U.S. government agencies are buying location data obtained from apps on Americans’ phones and are doing so without any kind of legal process, sich as a court order,” Wyden wrote. “I have spent the last year investigating the shady, unregulated data brokers that are selling this data and the government agencies that are buying it. My investigation confirmed the warrantless purchase of American’s location data by the Internal Revenue Service, Customs and Border Protection, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).”
The Biden administration may soon recruit an army of private snoops to conduct surveillance that would be illegal if done by federal agents. As part of its war on extremism, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may exploit a “legal work-around” to spy on and potentially entrap Americans who are “perpetuating the ‘narratives’ of concern,” CNN reported last week. But federal informant programs routinely degenerate into “dollars for collars” schemes that reward scoundrels for fabricating crimes that destroy the lives of innocent Americans. The DHS plan would “allow the department to circumvent [constitutional and legal] limits” on surveillance of private citizens and groups. Federal agencies are prohibited from targeting individuals solely for First Amendment-protected speech and activities. But federal hirelings would be under no such restraint. Private informants could create false identities that would be problematic if done by federal agents.
DHS will be ramping up a war against an enemy which the feds have never clearly or competently defined. According to a March report by Biden’s office of the Director of National Intelligence, “domestic violent extremists” include individuals who “take overt steps to violently resist or facilitate the overthrow of the U.S. government in support of their belief that the U.S. government is purposely exceeding its Constitutional authority.” Perhaps like setting up a private informant scheme to evade constitutional restrictions on warrantless surveillance?
One DHS official bewailed to CNN: “Domestic violent extremists are really adaptive and innovative. We see them not only moving to encrypted platforms, but obviously couching their language so they don’t trigger any kind of red flag on any platforms.” DHS officials have apparently decided that certain groups of people are guilty regardless of what they say (“couching their language”). The targets are likely to be simply people with a bad attitude towards Washington. That will include gun owners who distrust politicians who vow to seize guns.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) plans to launch a warning system to detect “domestic terrorism” threats by gathering and analyzing intelligence on public social media posts and making predictions on future actions.
The purpose of the system is to detect the sort of posts that allegedly proceeded the breach of the US Capitol on January 6. Law enforcement agencies were criticized for ignoring or missing the posts.
According to a DHS official involved in the efforts, the focus is supposedly not on the posters, but to identify the targets of domestic terrorism. The official also said that, for now, the DHS is using human data analysts, not computer algorithms, to analyze public social media posts.
As more and more people use their smartphones to pay for everyday items, public transit agencies are encouraging millions of Americans to use their phones as their primary means of paying their fares.
In New York City and elsewhere, police can use ‘touch ‘n go’ or ‘touchless fares’ to track millions of public transit users’ movements.
New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority’s OMNY Executive Director Al Putre said that as of December 2020 there have been over 34 million taps.
Imagine you are the Feds or the NYPD and you just found out that your agency now has access to detailed records of over 34 million transit user’s personal information. What do you think will happen?
In 2021, there is no denying that the United States is a full-on surveillance state. The Biden Administration attempts to remove all pretense of privacy with its new consideration to use outside firms to track “extremist” chatter by American citizens online. But what exactly is an “extremist?” According to Tulsi Gabbard, recent efforts essentially criminalize half the country:
“It’s so dangerous as you guys have been talking about, this is an issue that all Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians should be extremely concerned about, especially because we don’t have to guess about where this goes or how this ends,” Gabbard said.
She continued: “When you have people like former CIA Director John Brennan openly talking about how he’s spoken with or heard from appointees and nominees in the Biden administration who are already starting to look across our country for these types of movements similar to the insurgencies they’ve seen overseas, that in his words, he says make up this unholy alliance of religious extremists, racists, bigots, he lists a few others and at the end, even libertarians.” (source)
(So basically, if you’re reading this website, you’re probably an “extremist” in someone’s point of view.)
The Biden administration is reportedly considering partnering with private companies to track “extremist chatter by Americans online” as part of a plan that would allow federal agencies to circumvent the current legal limits on data collection.
According to CNN’s sources inside the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the plans would target private and encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram and involve “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.”
Under existing law, the DHS is barred from assuming false identities to gain access to private groups and apps.
But according to CNN, some of the outside entities that are being considered by the DHS include researchers and non-profits that use covert identities to access private groups on platforms such as Telegram.
The Biden administration is considering using outside firms to track extremist chatter by Americans online, an effort that would expand the government’s ability to gather intelligence but could draw criticism over surveillance of US citizens.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.
It would, however, involve empowering a unit at DHS that is already under fierce scrutiny for its bungled handling of the Portland riots last summer, an episode that included collecting intelligence reports on journalists and unmasking private citizens, according to a source familiar with a recent internal report on the matter.