The Department of Homeland security lacks the authority to spy on right-wing dissidents, but the Biden administration has reportedly found a workaround: using third-party researchers to snoop on so-called “domestic terrorists.”
In the aftermath of the pro-Trump riot on Capitol Hill in January, the Biden administration, with the support of sympathetic media outlets and pundits, focused the intelligence-gathering powers of the state inwards.
Biden added members to a domestic extremism team on the National Security Council, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declared homegrown “extremists” a “national priority area,” the FBI called for expanded domestic surveillance, and a top Justice Department official last week asked Congress for new powers to prosecute so-called “extremists.” In all cases, the same targets are identified: right-wing dissidents – including militia groups like the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys – who took part in the Capitol riot.
A CNN report on Monday gave a glimpse into what the coming war on domestic dissent could look like. Homeland Security and intelligence agencies, rather than waiting for new powers and heightened funding, are considering outsourcing some surveillance work to research groups and NGOs.
The DHS is limited in how it conducts surveillance, the report explains. It cannot, for example, impersonate right-wingers on forums and chat rooms. However, a panoply of researchers, journalists and nonprofits have been doing this for years. According to DHS officials who spoke to CNN, the agency wants to use research firms to gather the data it’s forbidden from gathering itself. The FBI and National Security Council are reportedly coordinating on the effort, a source added. Read more…