by Peter Grady –
The Department of Homeland Security has issued a document revealing it is monitoring various social media and new sites.
The document says Homeland Security is bound to do so by federal law. “Federal law requires the NOC [National Operations Center] to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture for the entire federal government, and for state, local, and tribal governments as appropriate, and to ensure that critical disaster-related information reaches government decision makers.”
It goes on to say “situational awareness” is defined as ““information gathered from a variety of sources that, when communicated to emergency managers and decision makers, can form the basis for incident management decision-making.”
In order to implement the mandate the document says the NOC will be using Internet-based platforms that provide a variety of ways to monitor “publicly available online forums, blogs, public websites, and message boards.”
DHS provides a list of the sites it is monitoring and they appear to cover both sides of the political spectrum.
Among the sites under surveillance are Jihad Watch and the liberal Huffington Post. Other sites included in the list are Live Leak, Vimeo, Youtube, Flickr, Counter-Terrorism Blog, Danger Room, Drudge Report, Foreign Policy, Global Security Newswire, Google Blog Search, Homeland Security Today, LongWarJournal, MEMRI, Newsweek Blogs, NYTimes Lede Blog, Plowshares Fund, Popular Science Blogs, Science Daily, STRATFOR, Technorati, Terror Finance Blog, and many others.
The explanation given for the wide variety of sites is that, “This is a representative list of sites that the NOC will start to monitor in order to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture under this Initiative. Initial sites listed may link to other sites not listed. The NOC may also monitor those sites if they are within the scope of this Initiative.”
Robert Spencer, founder of Jihad Watch, says he is encouraging agents to visit his site. “Welcome, agents! Grab a cup of coffee and stay awhile. Read around in the archives and articles. You might just learn something, if you dare to think outside the politically correct intellectual straitjacket enforced at the DHS these days. Go ahead. Dare to embrace the truth.”
Jihad Watch has been accused of promoting “Islamophobia” and hatred towards Muslims, but Spencer’s remarks indicate that he has nothing to hide and that his site does not promote violence.
His attitude is not shared by all, with some privacy groups worried about the program. EPIC has filed a lawsuit over concerns about the government storing data collected for up to five years.