Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is calling on the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General to open an internal investigation following revelations that a private intelligence firm provided the law enforcement agency with information on hundreds of protests against the Trump administration’s policy of family separation.
“This most recent reporting raises questions about the government surveillance of Americans exercising their constitutional rights to organize peacefully and protest a cruel and unjust policy that does not make America safer or improve our immigration system and asylum process,” Warren wrote in a letter to DHS Acting Inspector General John V. Kelly and shared with The Intercept on Tuesday.
Documents published by The Intercept on Monday showed that LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, a Virginia-based firm, provided DHS with a list of more than 600 family separation protests across the country last June, pulling together the Facebook IDs and physical addresses of the demonstrations. A “Threat Analyst” shared the information with a network of state-level law enforcement fusion centers. It was also picked up by DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which then disseminated to staff, allowing the information to filter down to Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in the field.
“I am very concerned about the nature of this surveillance and the potentially dangerous mischaracterization of peaceful and lawful public dissent and political demonstration as a national security threat requiring government monitoring and intelligence gathering via social media,” Warren, a presidential hopeful, added in her letter.
The communications The Intercept reported on were first obtained by the American Immigration Council — in collaboration with the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project, the National Immigrant Justice Center, Kids in Need of Defense, Women’s Refugee Commission, and Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP — as part of ongoing freedom of information litigation surrounding the Trump administration’s family separation policy.
LookingGlass Solutions declined to comment on The Intercept’s reporting Monday. DHS, meanwhile, said that the information the company provided was “unsolicited.” The agency added that it was “required” to share the unsolicited information because it involved protests near federal facilities. “Throughout the summer of 2018, the Department was at a heightened state of security due to ongoing protests outside of Federal facilities and physical threats to DHS employees which did result in a least one arrest,” a DHS official said in a statement.
In 2015, LookingGlass acquired Cyveillance, “a leader in open-source threat intelligence,” according to the LookingGlass website. Records indicate that Cyveillance performed contract work for the State Department in 2011 and DHS, via the Secret Service, in 2012. On Tuesday, however, a DHS official, speaking on background, told The Intercept that LookingGlass does not currently have a contract with DHS, raising further questions as to why the agency would internally disseminate its work product.
For Warren, and for the tens of thousands of people who participated in last year’s demonstrations, the response from DHS thus far has raised more questions than it has answered.
In her letter, the senator outlined eight specific areas she is requesting the DHS OIG to explore, including the legal authority relied upon to use the information LookingGlass collected and how the agency determined that using the information was legal — if it did. Warren also asked the inspector general’s office to explore the goal and origin of the data collection. “How was the information used by DHS or other federal or state law enforcement agencies?” she asked, and “what other agencies received the report or data from the report?”
The senator urged the oversight office to determine whether a specific DHS official “directs or oversees LookingGlass’s data collection or other actions related to monitoring of demonstrations or groups that criticize the administration’s immigration policies,” whether the information LookingGlass compiled was shared with the White House, and whether the firm “provided other information to DHS regarding surveillance of other immigration-related protests.”
“Are there other private intelligence companies that provide similar surveillance information to DHS,” Warren asked. “If so, what is the nature of their relationship with the agency, and how is this information disseminated and used by DHS?”
The protests catalogued by LookingGlass were large and small, with demonstrations held as far away as Mexico City. Included in the list were two rallies held at Boston’s City Hall, which, according to the intelligence LookingGlass gathered and DHS disseminated, were expected to attract several thousand people. Warren was among those who attended and used the opportunity to challenge the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement regime.
“The president’s deeply immoral actions have made it obvious,” Warren said at the time. “We need to rebuild our immigration system from top to bottom, starting by replacing ICE with something that reflects our morality and that works.”