In case you were wondering if the Department of Homeland Security could be any more immoral, corrupt, or malicious than we already thought possible, here’s your answer: Yes.
The Intercept reported today that during last year’s outrage against the Trump administration’s family separation policy, a Virginia-based private intelligence firm called LookingGlass Cyber Solutions built a list of the dates, times, and physical locations of over 600 Families Belong Together protests in the United States, as well as Mexico and the Netherlands, and shared it with DHS and “state-level law enforcement agencies.”
A LookingGlass representative refused to answer questions, while a DHS official told the Intercept that the list, which was built out on June 28, was “unsolicited.” As the Intercept notes, however, this “unsolicited” list was circulated among DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement on the morning of June 29, one day before the protests.
In total, the Families Belong Together coalition organized over 750 events on June 30, with well over 400,000 attending in all 50 states as well as several countries in Europe and the Americas. “It’s especially concerning given that these protests were basically thousands of moms and their kids, thousands of families, and that the Trump administration’s response to that was to put them on a watch list,” FBT co-chair Jess Morales Rocketto told the Intercept.
Emails showing the list were obtained by the American Immigration Council through a Freedom of Information Act request, one of many that the group has requested from DHS and its immigration agencies (ICE and Customs and Border Protection) surrounding the administration’s family separation policy. “We have been told in litigation that ICE, DHS, and CBP have hundreds of thousands of responsive records,” AIC Deputy Legal Director Emily Creighton told The Intercept.
Following the publication of the story, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for the DHS inspector general to probe “this serious abuse of power”:
This is far from the first time DHS has been caught running surveillance on peaceful protests. In 2009, the Washington Post reported that DHS had tracked the protests of a D.C antiwar group and passed the information onto the Maryland State Police. And in 2015, the Intercept reported that the agency had been monitoring the activities of Black Lives Matter groups all over the country dating back to the Ferguson protests.
Acting DHS Secretary and current CBP chief Kevin McAleenan is scheduled to testify on Tuesday morning before a House Appropriations subcommittee, and again on Thursday before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. His predecessor, Kirstjen Nielsen, stepped down earlier this month.
“The Families Belong Together coalition, which included protests in over 600 cities across the U.S. on June 30, 2018, was one of the most massive, single-day mobilizations of pro-immigrant people in U.S. history,” Ryan Eller, the executive director of pro-immigration nonprofit Define American, said in a statement. “It should not scare our government that so many Americans stood up for American values, including keeping families together.”
“The government did get one thing right though,” Eller added. “Widespread support across the nation for immigrant families IS scary to those who support white nationalism.”