DHS Forced To Reveal Words They Track On-line

Having a cookout this Memorial Day? Are you serving pork? Be careful that you cook it long enough, you don’t want anyone to get attacked by salmonella. I hope it’s not delayed or cancelled due to the weather. A storm could cause problems, and cause a power outage. What’s this about? Cyber security. Perhaps even Cain and Abel.

(UK Daily Mail) The Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.

The intriguing the list includes obvious choices such as ‘attack’, ‘Al Qaeda’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘dirty bomb’ alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like ‘pork’, ‘cloud’, ‘team’ and ‘Mexico’.

Released under a freedom of information request, the information sheds new light on how government analysts are instructed to patrol the internet searching for domestic and external threats.

The words are included in the department’s 2011 ‘Analyst’s Desktop Binder’ used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify ‘media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities’.

Department chiefs were forced to release the manual following a House hearing over documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit which revealed how analysts monitor social networks and media organisations for comments that ‘reflect adversely’ on the government.

A good chuck of the words I used in the opening would flag DHS. Want to discuss violence and kidnappings in Mexico on Twitter? DHS knows. How about extreme weather, snow, or a hurricane? Flagged. Did you write on Google+ about crossing a bridge before taking the metro to the airport? Flagged? The Electronic Privacy Information Center first filed an FOIA request, then had to sue to get the information (all the words are included over at the Daily Mail story). But, good news

However they insisted the practice was aimed not at policing the internet for disparaging remarks about the government and signs of general dissent, but to provide awareness of any potential threats.

And I’m sure we all trust the government, right? Yet, according to the above story, they monitor the Internet for items that are about DHS and other agencies. Under section 1.2, we get

4) Identifying media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities

Part of this is simply wanting to know so that the DHS Secretary can respond. Yet, it seems rather creepy. In section 1.3 Item of Interest Categorization we learn about

13) Reports on DHS, Components, and other Federal Agencies: Includes bothpositive and negative reports on FEMA, CIS, CBP, ICE, etc. as well asorganizations outside of DHS.

Down in (2) we learn about Items Of Interest, which are kicked up to higher levels. If it is simply negative about DHS, well, just kick it to your supervisor

Note – Reports that pertain to DHS and sub agencies – especially those that have a negative spinon DHS/Component preparation, planning, and response activities should be reported tomanagement before being sent to the distribution list. Senior TSI personnel will decide whetherthe information should be reported through normal channels. If there are ANY questions aboutwhether an incident or other reported item is a valid IOI article check with management

An incident that could create an Item Of Interest?

Policy directives, debates, and implementations related to DHS

Be careful in criticizing Big Sis!

Crossed at Pirate’s Cove. Follow me on Twitter @WilliamTeach.

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