A private company monitored protests around President Donald Trump's family separation policy last year and shared the information with the government, leading to anger and calls for an investigation.
The company, LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, spied on Americans around the country in the early summer of 2018. The surveillance was done in the lead-up to at least 600 protests held across the country against the family separation policy.
The revelation comes from documents obtained by the American Immigration Council and shared with The Intercept.
The information obtained by LookingGlass was offered "unsolicited" to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an official told The Intercept's Ryan Devereaux on background. The contents were then disseminated in DHS and passed onto Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The official gave further detail in an email to Devereaux.
"A private sector entity shared unsolicited information it collected through publicly available channels with DHS [Office of Intelligence and Analysis] on protests that were scheduled to take place near Federal facilities," said the official. "Throughout the summer of 2018, the Department was at a heightened state of security due to ongoing protests outside of Federal facilities and physical threats to DHS employees which did result in a least one arrest."
LookingGlass works with DHS regularly, the department added.
In a statement, Jess Morales Rocketto, chair of Families Belong Together, said that her group would not be intimidated and that Congress should investigate the allegations.
"We already knew that the administration had been harassing activists, lawyers, and journalists who have been shining a spotlight on the family separation crisis," said Rocketto. "The surveillance of last summer's protests is further proof that this administration is politicizing law enforcement and violating our basic civil rights."
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Activist organization Credo Mobile called DHS's behavior "outrageous" and echoed Rocketto's call for an investigation.
This is outrageous. The DHS Inspector General MUST investigate @DHSgov to figure out why our government is surveilling peaceful advocacy groups. Sign if you agree that Congress should #InvestigateDHS: https://t.co/maNkSq3vUz pic.twitter.com/LajAJDP54X— CREDO Mobile (@CREDOMobile) April 29, 2019
The fallout from Devereaux's reporting also enraged those who attended the protests.
"Homeland Security monitored the family separation protests my family went to," said writer Sean T. Collins.
Homeland Security monitored the family separation protests my family went to. https://t.co/IaYBFHm55I— Sean T. Collins (@theseantcollins) April 29, 2019
Naomi Dann, a media strategist for the New York Civil Liberties Union, pointed out that the government's reaction to the news shows that its priorities are skewed.
"Not only was DHS investing resources into tearing families apart, they were also paying to spy on families protesting that cruel policy," said Dann. "And now the government says they 'don't have the resources' to put all the separated families back together."
Not only was DHS investing resources into tearing families apart, they were also paying to spy on families protesting that cruel policy. And now the gov't says they "don't have the resources" to put all the separated families back together https://t.co/pHBYIOGSf2— Naomi Dann (@naomi_dann) April 29, 2019