The Department of Homeland Security likes your Facebook and Twitter
Posted by Pamela S. on Monday, May 28th, 2012
We all know that there are words you should never say at an airport, or on an airplane. If those words are part of a Twitter or Facebook post, The Department of Homeland Security may be following you online.
A list of keywords and phrases that The Department of Homeland Security monitors on Facebook, Twitter and other social media was released through a freedom of information request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. Some of the words are innocuous, such as ‘pork’, or 'smart'.
The 2011 Analyst's Desktop Binder used by staff at the DHS National Operations Center is an instruction guide to monitor 'media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities'.
I have used many of the words on the list in my blog posts. It isn’t just terrorism that the DHS is concerned about. The list includes words relating to the following topics:
- DHS and other Agencies
- Domestic Security
- HAZMAT and Nuclear
- Health Concern and H1N1
- Infrastructure Security
- Southwest Border Violence
- Cyber Security
Some would argue that cyber security means being able to go online without the threat of your tweets or social media posts being read and perhaps misinterpreted by a government agency. This is what happened in January to a British couple who planned to vacation in California. Leigh Van Bryan, 26, and Emily Bunting, 24, were denied entry at Los Angeles International Airport because of Twitter posts. The cou
ple were kept under armed guard for 12 hours and questioned before being sent back to Britain.
The Department of Homeland Security flagged Bryan as a potential threat because of a tweet he had posted prior to his trip, “Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?”
He also posted this: “3 weeks today, we're totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin' Marilyn Monroe up!”
Bryan stated that this was a quote from the American TV show, Family Guy. He said that “destroy America” was British slang for partying. The couple’s luggage was searched for spades or shovels. I guess DHS figured that they would bring their own tools to dig up Marilyn’s grave, instead of purchasing them in the states. England isn’t cheap, they could buy a shovel at Target for a much better price. Oops, Target is one of the words on the list.
The DHS also monitors major news outlets such as CNN, daily newspapers, and a number of blogs and aggregators, including Huffington Post, the Drudge Report and Wired blogs “Threat Level” and “Danger Room.”
I write about this often because it is such an important issue. Those of us who work in an industry such as private investigation understand the need to access private information for a purpose. That is what we do, but we also respect privacy laws and obtain information that is only available legally. Our clients pay us to get the facts. The information we obtain could help win a civil suit, bring criminal charges or provide proof of wrongdoing.
The consequences for DHS searches are much greater. It’s such a contentious issue. If monitoring for words prevented another 9/11 would you be for it?
If DHS wants to read about the pig roast I had last week, they are welcome. As they say, I have nothing to hide. On the other hand, when my friend writes me on Facebook to complain about her husband, or posts that she would “kill” for a piece of cake, she believes her words are private.
The DHS is most welcome to read this blog. The investigators at Sheer Investigations come from backgrounds such as the FBI, DEA and Secret Service. They understand the balancing act of protecting the privacy of the American people while seeking the information needed to keep citizens safe.
The DHS Analyst’s Desktop Binder 2011 is a fascinating read, no matter which side of the issue you are on.
Former FBI Assistant Director Tom Sheer has recruited the best from the FBI, DEA, IRS and Secret Service to build a formidable team at Sheer Investigations. Our private investigators have the sensitivity and experience to handle the most delicate investigations.