The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning on implementing widespread policy changes to “detect and stop domestic violent extremism.”
Two senior Biden administration officials told NBC News that the DHS is “seeking to improve its ability to collect and analyze data about domestic terrorism.” This includes posts that the FBI says were not “actionable.”
The DHS will expand its relationships with companies that browse public profiles for intelligence data and also plans on increasing its ability to process data it already collects about Americans, such as travel and commercial data through Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, and other DHS components.
DHS is also considering making changes to its terrorist watch list process “to see if there are ways we can leverage it to take into account international and domestic travel of known violent extremists.”
“The idea is to identify people who may through their social media behavior be prone to influence by toxic messaging spread by foreign governments, terrorists and domestic extremists,” said a DHS official to NBC News. “We want to Identify the narratives that are emerging, assess which narratives are likely to incite violence, figure out what targets are likely and then take steps to mitigate the risk. We’re going to do this in a very careful way that is mindful of privacy and civil liberties, because it’s focusing on narratives, not people.”
“Domestic violent extremism poses the most lethal, persistent terrorism-related threat to our homeland today,” said a DHS spokesperson to NBC News. “Under Secretary Mayorkas’ leadership, DHS is working closely with federal, state, local, tribal, and non-government partners to address this threat, and all of our efforts are carried out in close coordination with our privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties experts.”
“The story of DHS really is one of overreaching,” said Rachel Levinson-Waldman, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “And given the urgency of the moment, these periods don’t necessarily lend themselves to really being careful and judicious about how information is collected and kept.”
A report, authored by Levinson-Waldman, highlighted how the DHS monitors social media. The report stated that the DHS’s “wholesale monitoring of social media creates serious risks to privacy and free speech. Moreover, despite the rush to implement these programs, there is scant evidence that they actually meet the goals for which they are deployed.”