A Freedom of Information Act has revealed the Department of Homeland Security awarded a contract in 2010 to General Dynamics’ Advanced Information Systems in order to provide constant surveillance of social media, according to The Washington Post. The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed the request, and according to a training manual that was among the documents they received, DHS engaged in monitoring comments on Facebook, Twitter and blogs to obtain public sentiment on a proposed transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees to a town in Michigan. The $11 million contract awarded to General Dynamics is expected to produce “reports on DHS, Components, and other Federal Agencies: positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc. as well as organizations outside the DHS,” according to Computer World.
An unnamed senior DHS official denied any such snooping or out of bounds monitoring and said the training manual is no longer in use. John Cohen, a senior counterterrorism adviser to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the Post he hadn’t seen any reports on negative views of a governmental agency and that reports of this nature “would not be the type of reporting I would consider helpful.”
Still, it’s not hard to connect the dots. Ginger McCall, director of EPIC’s open government program told the Post “The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly.” Considering the way law enforcement has treated political dissenters historically and recently, those that are part of Occupy movements, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, it’s not hard to forget the NSA’s dream of “Total Information Awareness,” and anyone who’s been to a political march or rally can tell you plenty of law enforcement agencies attend as well, cameras in hand. No matter how many times they deny it, the evidence shows exactly how much they are watching you.