DHS – Privacy Impact Assessment – Lists sites they watch

By Scott W. Winchell

What do the following web sites have in common?

Jihad Watch, Live Leak, Border Fire, Twitter, Vimeo, Youtube, Flickr, Counter-Terrorism Blog, Danger Room, Drudge Report, Foreign Policy, Global Security Newswire, Google Blog Search, Homeland Security Today, Huffington Post, LongWarJournal, MEMRI, Newsweek Blogs, NYTimes Lede Blog, Plowshares Fund, Popular Science Blogs, Science Daily, STRATFOR, Technorati, Terror Finance Blog, Cyber Crime Topic Center, and ABC News Blotter, plus many others.

Pretty good company we think, makes us wonder why they did not include Stand Up America…er, yet!

Privacy Impact Assessment - Trust me?!

They are on the Department of Homeland Security’s new Privacy Impact Assessment for the Office of Operations Coordination and Planning Publicly Available Social Media Monitoring and Situational Awareness Initiative Update as sites they are watching at least initially. It was produced last January.

The original Homeland Security Act of 2002 had certain mandates and has been updated and amended several times.

The reason for the update from the PDF listed at DHS:

Federal law requires the NOC to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture for the entire federal government, and for state, local, and tribal governments as appropriate, and to ensure that critical disaster-related information reaches government decision makers. See Section 515 of the Homeland Security Act (6 U.S.C. § 321d(b)(1)). The law defines the term “situational awareness” as “information gathered from a variety of sources that, when communicated to emergency managers and decision makers, can form the basis for incident management decision-making.” OPS has launched this Initiative to fulfill its legal mandate to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture. In doing so, OPS is working with select components within the Department to achieve this statutory mandate.

… previous reports to help avoid duplicative reporting and ensure further development of reporting on ongoing issues. It allows analysts to electronically document details using a customized user interface, and disseminate relevant information in a standardized format. Using the MMC application, NOC analysts can efficiently and effectively catalog the information by adding meta-tags such as location, category, critical information requirement, image files, and source information. The application empowers NOC analysts to have a better grasp of the common operating picture by providing the means to quickly search for an item of interest using any of the above mentioned meta-tags as well as enabling them to respond to requests for information from other collaborating entities in a timely fashion. Download the entire PDF here.

The question we all ask after reading this is: “What is of interest to DHS?” Does it apply to the directives handed down that outline what and who are the right-wing extremists they determined need to be watched?

Remember, the DHS Mission is:

Title I – Department of Homeland Security

Sec. 101. Executive Department; Mission

(a) Establishment. – “There is established a Department of Homeland Security, as an executive department of the United States within the meaning of title 5, United States Code.

(b) Mission

(1) In General. – The primary mission of the Department is to

(A) prevent terrorist attacks within the United States;

(B) reduce the vulnerability of the United States to terrorism; and

(C) minimize the damage, and assist in the recovery, from terrorist attacks that do occur within the United States.”

So let’s ask ourselves, of the abbreviated list above, or the entire list on the document cited above, do these sites present a security issue to DHS, or are thay the sites that may do the homework for the DHS?

In numerous cases, the DHS and other DC alphabet soup agencies already cull a lot of knowledge from these and many other websites, so why is there a mandated Privacy Impact Assessment Report that at a minimum identifies:

The NOC will access these web-based platforms to identify content posted by public users for the purpose of providing situational awareness and establishing a common operating picture. The NOC will assess information identified to assist decision-makers

PII on the following categories of individuals may be collected when it lends credibility to the report or facilitates coordination with federal, state, local, tribal, territorial, foreign, or international government partners:

  1. U.S. and foreign individuals in extremis situations involving potential life or death circumstances;
  2. Senior U.S. and foreign government officials who make public statements or provide public updates;
  3. U.S. and foreign government spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates;
  4. U.S. and foreign private sector officials and spokespersons who make public statements or provide public updates;
  5. names of anchors, newscasters, or on-scene reporters who are known or identified as reporters in their post or article or who use traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed;
  6. current and former U.S. and foreign public officials who are victims of incidents or activities related to Homeland Security; and
  7. terrorists, drug cartel leaders or other persons known to have been involved in major crimes of Homeland Security interest, (e.g., mass shooters such as those at Virginia Tech or Ft. Hood) who are killed or found dead

You be the judge. Over at Jihad Watch, Robert Spencer and others cited the following as well:

“DHS Creates Accounts Solely to Monitor Social Networks,” by Olivia Katrandjian for ABC News, December 28, 2011 (thanks to C.Z.):

An online privacy group is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security accusing it of not releasing records from the agency’s covert surveillance of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites.

The DHS creates accounts solely to monitor social media sites and establish a system of records of the information gathered. The agency does not post information, seek to connect with other users, accept invitations to connect or interact with others according to a statement on their website.

How reassuring!

How much do you trust anything Janet Napolitano and DHS says or does?