In June of 2018, demonstrations were being planned across the country to protest the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy which separated migrant children from their families. Before the protests began, the Department of Homeland Security used a private intelligence firm to monitor the protest activity.
The Intercept reports that the Virginia-based firm, Looking-Glass Cyber Solutions, accumulated information on over 600 demonstrations nationwide. The information was then passed on to DHS and state-level law enforcement.
On June 28, two days before the protests were to begin, a “Threat Analyst” sent the intelligence report that Looking Glass had made to a “LookingGlass Shared Services” address.
“LookingGlass has compiled a spreadsheet for State Fusion Centers detailing over 600 planned ‘Family Separation Day Protests’ across the US on June 30,” the email said. “These originated from Cyber Threat Center (CTC) and are broken out by City and State; they provide physical location and the Facebook event ID.”
The next day, DHS passed the information on to its staff, and then Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel.
A DHS official said the information accumulated y LookinGlass was “unsolicited.”
“The Department of Homeland Security, Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) works with federal partners, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and state and local law enforcement through the National Network of Fusion Centers to assess threats and analyze trends in activity,” the official said in an email. “In this particular instance, a private sector entity shared unsolicited information it collected through publicly available channels with DHS I&A on protests that were scheduled to take place near Federal facilities. Throughout the summer of 2018, the Department was at a heightened state of security due to ongoing protests outside of Federal facilities and physical threats to DHS employees which did result in a least one arrest.”
The official continued: “When DHS I&A receives this type of information, we are required to share it consistent with DHS policy to ensure stakeholders have appropriate situational awareness regarding personnel, facilities, suspicious activities, emerging threats, incidents, operations, and operational capabilities affecting the Department or the Homeland Security Enterprise.”
The co-chair of Families Belong Together, Jess Morales Rocketto, criticized the monitoring.“Those protests represented the best of democracy,” she said. “It’s especially concerning given that these protests were basically thousands of moms and their kids, thousands of families, and that the Trump administration’s response to that was to put them on a watch list.”
“The DHS inspector general should investigate this,” Morales Rocketto said. “Congress should demand answers about this, because the government should not spy on Americans who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”
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