Ever complain on Facebook that you were feeling “sick?” Told your friends to “watch” a certain TV show? Left a comment on a media website about government “pork?”
If you did any of those things, or tweeted about your recent vacation in “Mexico” or a shopping trip to “Target,” the Department of Homeland Security may have noticed.
The Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release a list of key keywords and phrases it employs to keep track of social networking websites and online media for indicators of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.
The intriguing 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 info sheds new light on how government analysts and agents are instructed to patrol the world wide web looking 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 employees 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 paperwork obtained through a Freedom of Data Act lawsuit which revealed how analysts monitor social networks and media organisations for comments that ‘reflect adversely’ on the government.
Nevertheless they insisted the practice was aimed not at policing the internet for disparaging remarks about the government and indicators of common dissent, but to give awareness of any likely threats.
As well as terrorism, analysts are instructed to search for evidence of unfolding organic disasters, public health threats and serious crimes such as mall/college shootings, key drug busts, illegal immigrant busts.
The list has been posted online by the Electronic Privacy Data Center – a privacy watchdog group who filed a request below the Freedom of Data Act prior to suing to obtain the release of the documents.
In a letter to the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, the centre described the alternative of words as ‘broad, vague and ambiguous’.
They point out that it contains ‘vast quantities of First Amendment protected speech that is completely unrelated to the Department of Homeland Security mission to shield the public against terrorism and disasters.’
A senior Homeland Security official told the Huffington Publish that the manual ‘is a commencing point, not the endgame’ in preserving situational awareness of all-natural and guy-made threats and denied that the government was monitoring indicators of dissent.
Nonetheless the agency admitted that the language utilised was vague and in require of updating.
Spokesman Matthew Chandler told web site: ‘To guarantee clarity, as component of … program compliance assessment, DHS will critique the language contained in all supplies to obviously and accurately convey the parameters and intention of the program.’
Analyst’s Desktop Binder:
Don’t Use These Keywords: