Feds forced to release list of words used to monitor online speech

Pork. Cloud. Mexico. Exercise. Screening. Response. I have just given the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seven good reasons to investigate this article and its author.

The Daily Mail notes that a Freedom Of Information Act request has forced DHS to publicize a list of keywords it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.

complete list of the terms (which include Department of Homeland Security andsocial media) can be found here, as well as in the department’s 2011 Analyst’s Desktop Binder, which has also been made public via the FOIA request—or mostly public anyway. The version available via the above link contains some redactions.

According to the Mail, “analysts are instructed to search for evidence of unfolding natural disasters, public health threats and serious crimes such as mall/school shootings, major drug busts, illegal immigrant busts.”

The FOIA request was filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a watchdog group that described the list in a letter to the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence as “broad, vague and ambiguous.”

EPIC made the cast that the items include “vast amounts of First Amendment protected speech that is entirely unrelated to the Department of Homeland Security mission to protect the public against terrorism and disasters.”

I can see the group’s point. It is hard to fathom how words like aid, relief, or wave could be used to help agents tighten the noose on prospective terrorists. Then again, what do I know about SCREENING. Whoops, there I go again.


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