Sen. Warren calls on government watchdog to investigate surveillance of family separation protests

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling for the Homeland Security watchdog to open an investigation into the department’s use of a private cybersecurity company to monitor the hundreds of protests that Americans held last year in opposition to the administration’s family separation policy. “It is not a crime to attend a peaceful rally against this admin’s horrific family separation policy,” she tweeted. “In fact, I joined thousands of people at the Families Belong Together protest in Boston.”

Internal documents obtained by the American Immigration Council under the Freedom of Information Act showed that a firm called LookingGlass gathered information on last year’s rallies, including Facebook Event IDs and logistics such as time and location, which was then shared with Homeland Security officials, “who then distributed it within the Department and to outside law enforcement officials,” Warren’s letter states.

“This most recent reporting raises questions about the government surveillance of Americans exercising their constitutional rights to organize peacefully and protest a cruel and unjust policy that does not make America safer or improve our immigration system and asylum process,” the letter continues. “I am very concerned about the nature of this surveillance and the potentially dangerous mischaracterization of peaceful and lawful public dissent and political demonstration as a national security threat requiring government monitoring and intelligence gathering via social media.”

Warren’s letter outlines a number of requests, including “the goal of this data collection,” which department officials “were involved in the dissemination of this information,” whether this information was given to the White House, and whether LookingGlass has continued to monitor other demonstrations protesting the administration’s policies. As numerous immigrant rights advocates have noted, apparently officials took great care to track the Americans protesting family separation, but not the families they were separating. Homeland Security has also disbanded a unit that focused on domestic terrorism, including white supremacist threats.

The Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General is already conducting a separate investigation into another instance of government surveillance, following a whistleblower’s leak of documents revealing officials were keeping tabs on dozens of people, including seven U.S. citizens, who reported on or had associations with the so-called migrant caravan last year. Such assault on free press and democracy is something we expect in dictatorships,” said Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro, “not the United States of America.”

 

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