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Internal report showed DHS collected protester messages: WaPo

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  • The Department of Homeland Security collected and analyzed communications between Portland protesters and shared the information with other law enforcement agencies, The Washington Post reported.
  • However, Brian Murphy, acting DHS undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I & A), told the Senate Intelligence Committee in a briefing last week that office personnel did not interact with protesters, according to a letter from the committee.
  • The DHS report included protesters’ communications via the Telegram messaging app, discussing where to take the protests and how to avoid officers.
  • It is not immediately clear how the DHS obtained access to the protesters’ messages, nor what the motives were behind tracking and analyzing communications between civilians exercising rights protected by the First Amendment.
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The Department of Homeland Security reportedly collected and analyzed messages between protesters in Portland, contradicting what a department official told a Senate committee last week.

An internal DHS document, obtained by The Washington Post, showed the department had access to electronic communications between protesters and included their messages in an intelligence report, which was shared with other law enforcement agencies like the FBI.

Brian Murphy, the acting DHS undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I & A), had previously stated that office personnel had no contact with protesters, according to a letter from Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asking Murphy to confirm the statement.

However, the Open Source Intelligence Report, dated less than a week before Murphy’s briefing before the committee, included protesters’ communications via the Telegram messaging app, discussing where to take the protests and how to avoid officers.

“The report describes the messages as ‘likely Portland-based encrypted messaging app users discuss TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures] to evade law enforcement when being pursued,'” according to The Post report. “It also states that the information came from ‘a Telegram chat room,’ which it described as ‘an instant messaging service.'”

It is not immediately clear how the DHS obtained access to the protesters’ messages, nor what the motives were behind tracking and analyzing communications between civilians exercising rights protected by the First Amendment.

“DHS does not comment on congressional correspondence. We respond as appropriate,” the department told The Post in a statement.

The Post reported earlier this week that the DHS was also compiling intelligence reports on two journalists covering the protests who published leaked unclassified internal information. The reports were also disseminated to other law enforcement agencies.

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