Big Brother is Watching: DHS Expands Domestic Spying Program
Photo Credit: Tenth Amendment Center
Written by: Sam Orlando
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been operating a secretive domestic intelligence program that has reportedly been used to spy on American citizens, according to a Politico report released on Monday. The program, known as the "Domestic Terrorism Intelligence Unit," was created in response to a directive from former President Donald Trump to prioritize the investigation of domestic terrorism threats.
According to Politico, the DHS has been collecting intelligence on U.S. citizens and sharing it with other federal agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Justice, despite laws that are meant to protect Americans from such surveillance. The intelligence collected by the program includes information on individuals' social media activity, protests, and other activities that could be deemed threatening to national security.
DHS officials have defended the program, saying it is necessary to protect the country from domestic terrorism threats. However, civil liberties groups and some lawmakers have criticized the program, arguing that it is overly intrusive and lacks proper oversight.
"The Department of Homeland Security has no business spying on Americans who are exercising their First Amendment rights," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in a statement to Politico. "This program raises serious constitutional and legal concerns, and Congress needs to get answers."
The report comes amid growing concern over the government's use of domestic surveillance in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. The DHS has faced scrutiny over its handling of intelligence leading up to the attack and its response to the events that unfolded.
The revelation of the Domestic Terrorism Intelligence Unit has further fueled concerns about the government's surveillance of American citizens. Some experts worry that the program could be used to target individuals and groups based on their political beliefs, rather than actual threats to national security.
"The potential for abuse of these kinds of programs is enormous," said Faiza Patel, director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. "The government has a history of abusing surveillance authorities, and we need to ensure that there are strong safeguards in place to prevent that from happening."
The DHS has not yet responded to requests for comment on the report.
The existence of the Domestic Terrorism Intelligence Unit highlights the ongoing debate over the balance between national security and civil liberties in the United States. As the government continues to grapple with the threat of domestic terrorism, it remains to be seen how far it will go in its efforts to gather intelligence on American citizens.