DHS Makes a Blogger Watchlist

by baldilocks

A Feces List, if you will.

While the FBI and the various tentacles of the Intelligence Community fall under hard scrutiny for their actions during the 2016 presidential election, another security agency reaches out to get a piece of that sweet Big Brother action. Again.

Pay attention to the reminder of how the Terror Watch List works.

The Department of Homeland Security intends to list and track hundreds of thousands of news outlets, journalists, bloggers, and “influencers” in traditional and new media alike. Its plan is to analyze targets’ “sentiment,” monitor “any and all” coverage of select news stories, and possibly share data with “federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners.” (…)

DHS is surely aware media services are available, which raises the question of why it did not elect to use one. If the aim here, as Houlton claims, is “nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring” the news, why not use the standard programs to do it?

The distinction seems to be twofold. First, the DHS database is noticeably personal. It is not content with assessing the general mood on a given news story, or even the editorial stance of an entire outlet. No, the database will list individuals — “journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” — including not only their contact information, employment, and beat, but “any other information that could be relevant.” Any other information. Is it so surprising this plan is anxiety-provoking for those of us who could conceivably be listed?

The second distinction is this is a government list — DHS evidently wants a proprietary database, not the rent-a-list services it could obtain more quickly and cheaply — and government lists do not have a stellar reputation. The terrorist watchlist is exemplary on this point, and reviewing its record of abuse and incompetence takes us nowhere tinfoil territory.

Officially known as the Terrorist Screening Database, the watchlist includes the no-fly list and 10 other lists and screening programs in the Departments of Justice, Defense, Treasury, and Homeland Security. It is a sprawling data monster best known for its failures, and it has exploded from fewer than 50,000 entries at the close of the Bush administration to more than 1.8 million people today. Almost 40 percent of those listed have no demonstrable ties to terrorism, and 99 percent of the names suggested for the list are accepted. Evidence as flimsy as a suspicious social media post is enough for inclusion. The removal process is slow, confusing, and secretive.

The writer of this piece reminds us that the Terrorist Watchlist has been used as a means of gun control.

They never stop trying.

President Trump’s words of contempt for the mainstream media are well documented, as the writer points out, but he/she doesn’t mention that former President Obama did more than talk critically of the press; he actually authorized DOJ surveillance of Fox News reporter James Rosen and 20 Associated Press reporters.

Watching as all our federal intelligence, security, and investigative agencies show us who they really are, it’s tempting to shut down all digital communications and go hermit. I, however, think that this would be an admission of defeat; one which would embolden them. And they’re bold enough already, are they not?

Let them listen, read, make their lists, and check them twice. I’m a retired GI; they already know who I am, and I spent eight years being a little afraid of critiquing President Obama because of my ties to him. I’m done with that.

And, while President Obama is “gone,” those who would surveil innocent Americans for exercising freedom of the press long preceded him and will keep trying to get in our business for whatever reason and no matter who is president. Each of us “influencers” has to decide whether we are up for potential of personal invasion — or worse.

Because lists like this always have an unspoken purpose.

Juliette Akinyi Ochieng has been blogging since 2003 as baldilocks. Her older blog is here.  She published her first novel, Tale of the Tigers: Love is Not a Game in 2012.

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