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Investigate surveillance of US family separation protests: Warren

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren speaks at the National Forum on Wages and Working People: Creating an Economy That Works for All at Enclave on April 27, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (AFP photo)

US Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for an investigation into the Department of Homeland Security’s surveillance of protests against the Trump administration’s policy of separating families at the US border.

The 2020 presidential hopeful called on the DHS Inspector General (IG) Tuesday to launch the probe.

The call came after a Monday report by The Intercept found that the Virginia-based firm Looking Glass Cyber Solutions collected data over 600 demonstrations against the White House’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy last June.

“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,” Warren wrote. “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.”

It is not yet clear what legal authority the DHS relied on to take such a measure, a point among the eight brought up by the Massachusetts senator.

“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,” a DHS official told The Intercept, adding that the information was “unsolicited.”

A DHS official said in a statement to The Hill that “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."

“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 US administration in Washington separated hundreds of children from their families last year before international outrage forced President Donald Trump to halt the practice and a federal judge ordered them reunited.


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