Homeland Security Authorizes Domestic Surveillance of Protests to Protect Statues: Report

The Department of Homeland Security authorized personnel to conduct domestic surveillance to protect statues and monuments, Lawfare reports.

A DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis memo titled "Activities in Furtherance of Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, Statues, and Combatting Recent Criminal Violence,” describes intelligence collection tactics personnel can use and legal guidance on appropriate protocols.

The document described DHS personnel as "collecting and reporting on various activities in the context of elevated threats targeting monuments, memorials, and statues" and included legal guidance on the "expanded intelligence activities necessary to mitigate the significant threat to homeland security."

Ken Cuccinelli, the acting deputy secretary at DHS, seemingly cited this intelligence collection on CNN Monday.

"We got intelligence about planned attacks on federal facilities," he said. "If we get the same kind of intelligence in other places about threats to other facilities or officers, we would respond the same way."

Memo authorizes surveillance:

The document, issued in response to President Trump’s June 26 executive order targeting statue vandals.

It authorizes personnel to "engage in physical surveillance, the use of mail covers, and the use of monitoring devices only to the extent permitted by and consistent with [rules limiting their use to counterintelligence investigations]."

"I&A personnel are not permitted to engage in electronic surveillance or unconsented physical searches," it says. "Use of these techniques within the United States will be coordinated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation."

The memo acknowledges that these tactics cannot be used "for the sole purpose of monitoring activities protected by the First Amendment or the lawful exercise of other Constitutional or legal rights, or for the purpose of suppressing or burdening criticism or dissent."

“Unpersuasive” and “Alarming”:

The memo "makes clear that the authorized intelligence activity covers significantly more than just planned attacks on federal personnel or facilities," Lawfare editor Benjamin Wittes and University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck wrote. "It appears to also include planned vandalism of Confederate (and other historical) monuments and statues, whether federally owned or not."

"It is unpersuasive because it should be obvious that vandalism and other damage to monuments, even federal monuments, does not threaten the security of the homeland to any greater extent than most property crimes," they said.

"The premise is alarming because it uses the cover of minor property damage, whether to federal property or otherwise, to justify intelligence gathering against ordinary Americans—most of whom have nothing to do with the underlying property damage, and many of whom are engaged in the most American of activities: peacefully protesting their government,” they added.


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