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DHS Monitoring "Political Dissent"
January 14, 2012 7:56 PM   Subscribe

A FOIA by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) has revealed that the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring political dissent, including social media that reflect adversely on the U.S. government generally and DHS specifically.

Btw, the TSA is buying dosimeters to determine if Transportation Security Officers (TSO) are exposed to ionizing radiation, i.e. ask for the fondling. (pervious tag)

Also, a Providence R.I. baker invented the TSA compliant cupcake after cupcakegate.
posted by jeffburdges (61 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The DHS is monitoring social media which is critical of them?

This is my shocked face.

(Not sure that the below-the-fold material actually is pertinent to the above the fold content, but whatever)
posted by hippybear at 8:01 PM on January 14, 2012


I am sure that during the cold war the government monitored op ed columns for anti-American sentiment. Social media is likewise monitored, but that doesn't automatically mean the government is going to send troops to your house for tweeting your disagreement with a policy announcement.
posted by glaucon at 8:04 PM on January 14, 2012


*not that this article alleges the government will take action in such a case, but it's not surprising the government is monitoring Twitter
posted by glaucon at 8:05 PM on January 14, 2012


This is my shocked face.

And if the dosimeters turn up anything, I want to know about it. Not that I fly often or anything.
posted by eriko at 8:08 PM on January 14, 2012


I'm reserving judgement on this, but there's nothing wrong with government agencies monitoring news reports about themselves.

I don't think someone following the #DHS hashtag on twitter, for example, is a problem either. I'd be concerned if they were actually viewing private communications, however. Is there anything in the report that they're viewing anything private?
posted by empath at 8:08 PM on January 14, 2012


Alternative headline: "DHS is surfing the Internet"

Opposite world headline: "DHS ignores online critics"
posted by planet at 8:09 PM on January 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


The excerpts seem to show relatively anodyne reports of the 'people think this is a bad policy' type, not extensive 'enemies lists', or anything of the kind.
posted by empath at 8:09 PM on January 14, 2012


A relatively anodyne reaction from Metafilter, so far, but briefly clicking on some of the links is not exactly reassuring, from one who values his privacy.

Of course, the first use of the word "Homeland" was a bit chilling at the time for many of us.
posted by kozad at 8:15 PM on January 14, 2012 [25 favorites]


Of course, the first use of the word "Homeland" was a bit chilling at the time for many of us.

Amen.
posted by hippybear at 8:19 PM on January 14, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I was against the DHS. Still think it should be broken up. I'm actually curious if there's anything more sinister going on here than just tracking public opinion. I just don't see it from what I've read so far.
posted by empath at 8:20 PM on January 14, 2012


Well, the most sensible name for DHS would have been Department of Defense, but that's the euphemistic title for what used to be the Department of War.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:21 PM on January 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


So, until this point, the DHS has been keeping two main considerations in its policies:

It's continued existence, and actual national security. The latter being a distant second, of course.

Now, the three main concerns are:

It's continued existence, public opinion, and actual national security.

Great...

Not an ominous sign of impending Orwellian tyranny, but another sign of complete and utter uselessness.
posted by ocschwar at 8:21 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


The government reading postings on public forums. Hard to get worked up about that with constant warrant-less wiretaps, illegal search and seizures, and the general gutting of the fourth amendment.
posted by Grumpy old geek at 8:24 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


...the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring political dissent, including social media that reflect adversely on the U.S. government generally and DHS specifically.

Anyone check to see if BoingBoing is on the list? If the future consists of a boot stomping on a human face, I find some comfort to think that it'll be smashing some ironic hipster glasses.
posted by 445supermag at 8:24 PM on January 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


MetaFilter: an ominous sign of impending Orwellian tyranny
posted by hippybear at 8:25 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Most large government agencies track public opinion, just like corporations do. They all have PR departments, etc.
posted by empath at 8:26 PM on January 14, 2012


Alternative headline: "DHS is surfing the Internet"

That's what I thought. I mean, Hulu? What kind of Orwellian panopticon is monitoring Hulu for political dissent?

I think somebody in DHS was just casting about for some Serious Business excuse to get their favorite internet fixes off their office's IT blacklist.
posted by Rhaomi at 8:34 PM on January 14, 2012


Gotta go with the majority opinion here and am scratching my head as to why this is suppose to be a big deal. A government agency is reading publicly posted opinions that are critical of it/the government? As long as that is predominately what they are doing it seems prudent to at least keep an eye focused in that direction, never know what easy fish you might pick up.
posted by edgeways at 8:41 PM on January 14, 2012


Why wouldn't a security organization read the Internet? I would be more concerned if they ignored it.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 8:42 PM on January 14, 2012


J Edgar in a dress, tell me something I didn't know already. Government bodies should be monitoring the public's opinion of them and their policies; in an ideal world they'd actually take positive action in response.
posted by arcticseal at 8:51 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think somebody in DHS was just casting about for some Serious Business excuse to get their favorite internet fixes off their office's IT blacklist.

I'd be amazed if this wasn't it- I worked at a very conservative company that rigidly stricted all the internets, but fark was able to be accessed forever. The people who create the filters rule the world.
posted by winna at 8:52 PM on January 14, 2012


I can add to this info about DHS web usage that (according to my hit counter) DHS has also browsed zombie survival gear. But this is clearly within their mandate, and is exactly how they should be using the web.
posted by -harlequin- at 9:04 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


probably the "survival gear" that got the hit
posted by edgeways at 9:06 PM on January 14, 2012


I stopped working for the government in 2003 or so, but up until then, the government agency I worked for did very little filtering of what sites you could visit. I got a light slap on the wrist from security for running Audiogalaxy in 2001 or so -- there wasn't even a policy against file sharing at the time. I gather that's changed significantly recently, though.
posted by empath at 9:07 PM on January 14, 2012


Called it.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:07 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Rename the DHS the Organization of Superior Patriots Fighting for the Betterment and Safety of US Citizens Who Love and Honor His or Her Country.

Or OSPFBSUSCWLHHHC for short
posted by glaucon at 9:07 PM on January 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anyone check to see if BoingBoing is on the list?
BoingBoing checked to see if BoingBoing was on the list. The answer is no, to save a click-through to BoingBoing.
posted by arsey at 9:07 PM on January 14, 2012


Dear DHS,

You are the MOST USELESS branch of government. How come foreign airports don't make people take their shoes off? You suck.


Sincerely,
Renoroc
posted by Renoroc at 9:18 PM on January 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


BoingBoing checked to see if BoingBoing was on the list. The answer is no..

And they were so disappointed. It must have been a crushing experience, to discover they weren't subversive enough for the government to care about them.

It fills me with great amusement to see the big stink people are making about government employees reading the NY Times and the Drudge Report.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:44 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


And they were so disappointed. It must have been a crushing experience, to discover they weren't subversive enough for the government to care about them.
Because you're personal beef with Cory Doctorow is what's really important here.
posted by delmoi at 10:14 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Acutally, delmoi, I was thinking more about Jenny Xardin.
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:32 PM on January 14, 2012


Yo, didn't you guys get the memo? Our Other is reddit now. Obsessively applying the narcissism of small differences to BoingBoing is so two years ago.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 10:41 PM on January 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


ah for the days of LGF
posted by edgeways at 10:49 PM on January 14, 2012


About 5 or 6 years ago I did "media monitoring" for a provincial government ministry. I had to search the internet for news stories, including opinion and editorial pieces, about the ministry, and then make daily report (it is the worst of jobs).

I imagine this is the same thing, just using Twitter hashtags.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:55 PM on January 14, 2012


charlie don't surf: "BoingBoing checked to see if BoingBoing was on the list. The answer is no..

And they were so disappointed. It must have been a crushing experience, to discover they weren't subversive enough for the government to care about them.

It fills me with great amusement to see the big stink people are making about government employees reading the NY Times and the Drudge Report.
"

No, it pisses me off I can't make civil services wages/benefits to do something of what I do for amusement anyway.

Some of us haver to run our asses off to make less pay and benefits at a time when our economy is strapped.

Hell, I would even take work home...
posted by Samizdata at 11:55 PM on January 14, 2012


have to, even. Damn non-autocorrect!
posted by Samizdata at 11:55 PM on January 14, 2012


So, until this point, the DHS has been keeping two main considerations in its policies:

It's continued existence, and actual national security. The latter being a distant second, of course.

Now, the three main concerns are:

It's continued existence, public opinion, and actual national security.

And a fanatical devotion to the Pope.

Four. Their four main concerns...

wait, I'll come in again and we'll try this again.
posted by DreamerFi at 12:08 AM on January 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


As a historian, I have seen various state agencies (in Belgium, not the US) keep extensive records relating to the press and public opinion relevant to their activities. It sometimes even gives me leads. In and of itself, as many commenters above have pointed out, this is innocuous, though obviously it would make nastier objectives somewhat easier.

However, he fact that there is a data gathering and analysis company called "Palantir Technologies" (cf.) (third link in the FPP) doing business with the US government is both hilarious and ominous.
posted by dhens at 12:17 AM on January 15, 2012


(Palatir Technologies is memorable for their participation in the Wikileaks-HBGary-BankofAmerica-Anonymous lulzfuckup)
posted by hattifattener at 12:27 AM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Palantir's name is no accident either: they were perfectly happy to acknowledge the LoTR reference when asked at a recruiting event a couple years ago. Frankly, the company gives me the creeps.
posted by zachlipton at 1:10 AM on January 15, 2012


Isn't the issue that "the program [is] executed .. by individuals who established fictitious usernames and passwords to create covert social media profiles to spy on other users.". In other words, they aren't simply monitoring public discussions, but attempting to engage in discussions users may consider private.

We know that DHS utilizes the TSA for reprisal harassment targeted at individuals like Tor's Jacob Appelbaum, the DOJ whistle blower Jesselyn Radack, the ACLU's David Fathi, etc., etc. Btw, the Maryland police added 53 nonviolent activists to the no fly list for protesting the death penalty and Iraq war too. We also know DHS has used very broad information like credit reports when constructing its no fly list. I'd expect they'll abuse this information one way or another once they collect it.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:44 AM on January 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


The most bizarre part about Palantir is that one of the founders, Peter Thiel, is a noted radical libertarian. He funds organizations such as the Seastanding Institute, which is dedicated towards a Randian ideal of leaving nation states to make your own island. On the other hand, he's getting hundreds of millions of dollars in military-industrial-complex money from the US government.
posted by amuseDetachment at 2:21 AM on January 15, 2012


How come foreign airports don't make people take their shoes off? You suck.

They do, apparently if you walk down the 'wrong' side. Sometime in the last 24 hours (because I don't know what day it is right now) I went through a wonderful, nice and gentle, very polite and friendly security check in Bangkok airport as a transit passenger from Singapore to Nairobi.

Now Bangkok's airport is also extremely large (West gate to East gate approx 900 metres) and quite confusing. After discovering my transfer desk wouldn't open for another hour I got turned around and ended up somehow back outside the secure area. This time, the security check had one of those X ray machines everyone was going on about a while ago *and* made me take my shoes off and whatnot.

This was the end that led to flights to UK, Australia and one assumes, parts of the USA. I found the difference in demeanour of the security people pretty obvious as well, they must have all had the same "we're mean and we're going to growl at you rather than be nice polite Thai people we really are" training from expensive global consultants.

tl;dr - they make you take your shoes off if you expect them to
posted by infini at 2:22 AM on January 15, 2012


"the program [is] executed .. by individuals who established fictitious usernames and passwords to create covert social media profiles to spy on other users."

This must be the implementation of the open contract for sockpuppetry we discussed a year or so ago.
posted by infini at 2:27 AM on January 15, 2012


I am now imagining analysts watching Parry Gripp videos over and over, looking for the hidden messages of terrorist implication....
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:23 AM on January 15, 2012


he's getting hundreds of millions of dollars in military-industrial-complex money from the US government.

The surest way to Profit! is not step 2? but to be a part of a Government mandate. And one of the last sections to be cut is the security part of government.

Not to mention espionage can be very profitable. Industrial secret here, ad network there, rather quickly you are talking real money.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:37 AM on January 15, 2012


How come foreign airports don't make people take their shoes off? You suck.

On different occasions I have had to remove shoes in both UK and German airports.
posted by biffa at 5:05 AM on January 15, 2012


Of course, the first use of the word "Homeland" was a bit chilling at the time for many of us.

I prefer "Heimat."
posted by spitbull at 6:57 AM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most bizarre part about Palantir is that one of the founders, Peter Thiel, is a noted radical libertarian.

Why is that strange? The core ideal of libertarianism is "Screw you, I got mine." Making loads of money doing something unethical does not violate libertarian ethic; it IS the libertarian ethic.
posted by Philosopher Dirtbike at 7:01 AM on January 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


OP: pervious tag

Lol, this is just so appropriate.
posted by annsunny at 8:16 AM on January 15, 2012


A sad day indeed when "I was expecting this" is synonymous with "I see no problem with this."
posted by odinsdream at 9:01 AM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I found this story concerning.

I find this thread frightening.
posted by DU at 11:31 AM on January 15, 2012


I understand that a modern organization need to monitor and participate in social media to engage with the public. The problem is that there doesn't seem to be any firewall or controls to prevent retaliation and check the corruption of power. I think people are correct to be outraged by this and I caution their critics to think carefully before jumping to the conclusion that this is overblown.
posted by humanfont at 5:02 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The most bizarre part about Palantir is that one of the founders, Peter Thiel, is a noted radical libertarian.

Why is that strange? The core ideal of libertarianism is "Screw you, I got mine." Making loads of money doing something unethical does not violate libertarian ethic; it IS the libertarian ethic.


I don't think it's as simple as that, although there are some libertarians who do have that radical social darwinism viewpoint.

I think part of the reason is that people like Thiel know the incredible power that information technology and data mining can give to the ones in control of the information. And that makes them uncomfortable with unchecked power and suspicious of governments in general.

I've done minor research work and projects in large-scale blog analysis and machine learning classification of political affiliation. Collecting millions of posts and training classifiers to identify the authors political leaning. It's fun and fascinating work, and as a data geek it's easy to get excited about. But you also really think about how these things can be abused by authoritarians to crack down on dissent.

I've passionately argued for civil-libertarian viewpoints on here before, but I consider myself a "social libertarian", a term I think I first heard on here. We need social programs to ensure everyone starts on an even playing field. And we need taxes for shared public infrastructure.

But when you work with technology you watch the continual advances, and you realize what these things can be used for. Maybe not now, but in the future. Because the software can always be updated once the infrastructure is in place. CCTVs don't seem like much of a threat now, but combine it with real-time facial recognition and things suddenly change. Automated blog tracking by DHS doesn't seem like much now, but combine it with ML and things could get scary.

Libertarian ideals don't necessarily need to be born of selfish reasons. And even selfish goals can benefit the group in some situations.
posted by formless at 6:27 PM on January 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


But when you work with technology you watch the continual advances, and you realize what these things can be used for. Maybe not now, but in the future. Because the software can always be updated once the infrastructure is in place. CCTVs don't seem like much of a threat now, but combine it with real-time facial recognition and things suddenly change. Automated blog tracking by DHS doesn't seem like much now, but combine it with ML and things could get scary.

That, in a nutshell, is why I don't participate in Facebook or Twitter or many other social media apps.
posted by hippybear at 6:30 PM on January 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ditto.
posted by Twang at 7:09 PM on January 15, 2012


FBI Building App To Scrape Social Media
posted by jeffburdges at 6:59 PM on January 27, 2012


Twitter to selectively 'censor' tweets by country

Twitter has announced that it now has the technology to selectively block tweets on a country by country basis.

In its blog, Twitter said it could "reactively withhold content from users in a specific country".

But it said the removed content would be available to the rest of the world. Previously when Twitter deleted a tweet, it would disappear worldwide.

posted by infini at 11:21 PM on January 27, 2012


EFF: What Does Twitter’s Country-by-Country Takedown System Mean for Freedom of Expression?
posted by homunculus at 9:29 AM on January 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tourists deported from U.S. for Twitter jokes
posted by homunculus at 9:35 AM on January 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maine Senator Susan Collins wants independent study of TSA's body scanners
posted by jeffburdges at 3:41 PM on January 30, 2012


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