April 30, 2019

Senator Warren Calls for IG Investigation into Reports DHS Used Intelligence Firm’s Surveillance of Trump Administration Family Separation Policy Protests

“It is not a crime to attend a peaceful rally against this admin’s horrific family separation policy - in fact, I joined thousands of people at the Families Belong Together protest in Boston.”

Washington, DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) today sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) requesting an investigation into the department’s use of information from a private intelligence firm that reportedly monitored family separation protests across the United States last June.  Her request comes in the wake of yesterday’s report in The Intercept that the Virginia-based firm LookingGlass Cyber Solutions gathered information on more than 600 peaceful and legal demonstrations organized last summer in response to the Trump Administration’s inhumane policies of family separation at the southern border. The firm reportedly provided detailed information on these protests to DHS officials – who then distributed it within the Department and to outside law enforcement officials.
In a post to social media citing the report, Senator Warren said the following: “It is not a crime to attend a peaceful rally against this admin’s horrific family separation policy – in fact, I joined thousands of people at the Families Belong Together protest in Boston. The @DHSgov IG should investigate this serious abuse of power.”
Initial statements by both LookingGlass, the private company that conducted the surveillance, and DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis have provided little insight into the origins of the data collection, how and why it was sent to DHS, and how it was used by DHS officials and state or local law enforcement officials.
“This most recent reporting raises questions about the government surveillance of Americans exercising their constitutional rights to organize peacefully and protest a cruel and unjust policy that does not make America safer or improve our immigration system and asylum process,” wrote Senator Warren in her letter to DHS. “I am very concerned about the nature of this surveillance and the potentially dangerous mischaracterization of peaceful and lawful public dissent and political demonstration as a national security threat requiring government monitoring and intelligence gathering via social media.”
Senator Warren’s letter requests that the IG investigate eight questions about the data collection and the nature of DHS contracts with private intelligence companies like LookingGlass, including:
  1. What legal authority did DHS rely upon to use information collected by LookingGlass on the June 30, 2018 Families Belong Together protests? If the agency made a determination that using such information was lawful, how did it reach that conclusion?
  2. What was the goal of this data collection and how did it originate? 
  3. How was the information provided to DHS?  Did any DHS officials request the data or otherwise initiate its dissemination? 
  4. Which DHS officials were involved in the dissemination of this information, and why did they do so?
  5. How was the information used by DHS or other federal or state law enforcement agencies?  What other agencies received the report or data from the report? Did any White House official receive the report or data from the report?
  6. Which DHS official directs or oversees LookingGlass’s data collection or other actions related to monitoring of demonstrations or groups that criticize the administration’s immigration policies?  Has Looking Glass provided other information to DHS regarding surveillance of other immigration-related protests that occurred before or after June 30, 2018?
  7. What is the nature of DHS’s relationship with LookingGlass? Please include information related to any contracts between the agency and the firm that existed at the time of the June 30, 2018 Families Belong Together protests.
  8. Are there other private intelligence companies that provide similar surveillance information to DHS, and if so, what is the nature of their relationship with the agency, and how is this information disseminated and used by DHS?