DHS Makes a Blogger Watchlist

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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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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.

Hit Da Tech Guy Blog’s Tip Jar for his new not-GoDaddy host!

Or hit Juliette’s!