DHS Obtained Protesters' Encrypted Messages, Used Them To Craft 'Intelligence' Reports

from the and-lied-to-oversight-about-them dept

The more the DHS inserts itself into the ongoing civil unrest, the more unrestful it gets. President Trump sent his federal forces to Portland, Oregon — the first of many “democrat” cities the president feels are too violent/unrestful — to protect federal buildings from violent graffiti outbursts or whatever. When the DHS arrived — represented by the CBP, ICE, US Marshals, and other federal law enforcement — it announced its arrival with secret police tactics straight out of the Gestapo playbook.

Since that wasn’t martial state enough, the federal officers turned things up, opening fire on journalists and legal observers. Literally. Local journalists were tear gassed, hit with pepper spray/pepper balls, and shot with “non-lethal” projectiles. The journalists and observers sued the federal government, securing a restraining order forbidding federal officers from continuing to violate the Constitution. Federal officers refused to stop (their) rioting and now may face sanctions for their actions. They will definitely be facing additional lawsuits since the restraining order made it clear willful violators would not be granted qualified immunity.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, news leaked out that DHS was compiling “intelligence reports” on local journalists, as well as journalists located elsewhere in the nation who had published leaked DHS documents. One day after breaking the news about the journalist-targeting “intelligence reports,” the Washington Post broke more news — again with the aid of a leaked DHS document. This one shows the DHS is (still) on the wrong side of the First Amendment. It also appears to show the agency lying to its oversight.

A senior Department of Homeland Security official told a Senate committee earlier this month that the department had not collected, exploited or analyzed information from the electronic devices or accounts of protesters in Portland, Ore.

But an internal DHS document obtained by The Washington Post shows the department did have access to protesters’ electronic messages and that their conversations were written up in an “intelligence report” that was disseminated to federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, as well as state and local governments.

This news broke on July 31. On July 23, acting DHS undersecretary Brian Murphy told the Senate Intelligence Committee the agency’s Intelligence and Analysis division had “neither collected nor exploited or analyzed information” obtained from “accounts” belonging to protesters or detainees.

Murphy had to have known his statements to the Intelligence Committee were false.

A DHS Open Source Intelligence Report dated six days before Murphy’s briefing to the committee shows that the I & A office analyzed messages that protesters exchanged on the Telegram messaging app. They discussed which routes to take during marches and how to avoid the police.

The messages quoted in the so-called “Open Source” report don’t detail any planned wrongdoing. (Also: Telegram’s encrypted messaging system cannot honestly be called “open source.” It’s not like viewing public accounts on social media, which is what “open source” usually means in this context.) Instead, the “analyzed” messages show protesters pointing out the obvious to each other. Walking towards or through residential neighborhoods draws less federal law enforcement attention. This makes sense because the feds are only there to defend the federal buildings located in downtown Portland. They’re not in Portland to conduct normal law enforcement work Here’s a representative quote:

“Seems they’re less inclined to go into residential neighborhoods which makes sense.”

And here’s how those communications — possibly obtained from an informant or undercover officer with access to the Telegram group — were portrayed by DHS I&A.

[d]iscussing […] TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures] to evade law enforcement when being pursued…

The DHS has no business infiltrating groups participating in protected speech, just like it has no business compiling dossiers on journalists. Whatever pressure it may be feeling from an administration seemingly hellbent on portraying organic anti-police protests as organized antifa riots doesn’t excuse these actions. The DHS may want to please its boss by bringing him some evidence of paid protesting, but it can’t just ignore the Constitution until agents find what they’re looking for.

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Comments on “DHS Obtained Protesters' Encrypted Messages, Used Them To Craft 'Intelligence' Reports”

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23 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

You can do whatever you want if no-one stops you

The DHS may want to please its boss by bringing him some evidence of paid protesting, but it can’t just ignore the Constitution until agents find what they’re looking for.

Unfortunately yes, they can, because those with the power to keep them in check have absolutely no interest in doing so, so while they may piss off a judge to two through their actions and subsequent indifference towards legal orders it’s not like those giving them their original orders and who could impose real penalties are going to crack down on government goons doing exactly what they are being told to do.

If there’s a ‘silver lining’ to this it’s that it’s showing just how much utter contempt and hate the ‘law and order’ party has towards both of those terms, highlighting for anyone who might not have caught on yet just how eager they are to go full fascist the second they feel their authority questioned and their power facing even the slightest bit of challenge.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Protestors converge on FEDs. Protestors torment and throw fireworks etc at FEDs. FEDs get pissed and ruin the party. C’mon people, dont poke the bear. It isn’t like the troops are coming to get you. You are going to them. Just a thought, have a peaceful assembly 4 or 5 blocks away from the federal courthouse. I bet the only Leo’s that show up are local or state yocals. If I am wrong in that prediction then by all means I will contribute to the legal defense funds of those whose rights have actually been abridged.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"Just a thought, have a peaceful assembly 4 or 5 blocks away from the federal courthouse."

Ah, you mean the ones which were indeed peaceful and still got hit with tear gas and rubber bullets?

"I bet the only Leo’s that show up are local or state yocals."

Doesn’t really make much of a difference. They’re equally heavily armed and equally ready to resort to violence against even sitting demonstrators.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Local police

From what I’ve gathered of the story, the Portland PD and Oregon-based crowd control had stopped using tear gas (and maybe even impact crowd-control weapons) and the protests were peaceful, only ongoing (around forty days at the time).

Then the DHS Stormtroopers came in and resumed using riot-control weapons, including tear gas, which escalated the belligerence. I believe the justification for this was graffiti.

Also, like Bush, Trump gets childlike in having troops he can command and send to give form to his outrage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Click bait headline.

A narc got invited to a group chat and recorded the chat.

We don’t know that. All we know is that the DHS got these messages from a chat and claimed they were ‘Open’. Telegram has an unvetted encryption scheme not based on standard primitives, so they may have just peeled it back like a sardine can.

procopius (profile) says:

Have you forgotten the Patriot Act?

"The DHS has no business infiltrating groups participating in protected speech, just like it has no business compiling dossiers on journalists."

I think you’ve forgotten the purpose(s) of the DHS, which include, but are not limited to, gathering intelligence to thwart terrorists. I know most people think white people who are not Muslims cannot commit terrorism, but that’s sophistry. Basically, after 9/11, a panicked populace allowed the neocons to install a fascist secret police. There were warnings at the time. Do you remember that they can demand your local library provide them with a list of all books you’ve borrowed and are forbidden to tell you they have done so? The only thing we can do is hope that IF Biden is elected, he can be persuaded/pressured to reexamine the monster he voted for. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

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