By: Steven Dobbs
Thanks to a freedom of information request, the Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release keywords that raise red flags. Some are obvious, a search for attack or dirty bomb will raise red flags. Other words such as Mexico, pork, cops or prevention are a bit surprising. The Department of Homeland Security insists they are only looking for actual threats and not seeking out dissenters.
As well as terrorism, analysts are instructed to search for evidence of unfolding natural disasters, public health threats and serious crimes such as mall/school shootings, major drug busts, illegal immigrant busts.
The list has been posted online by the Electronic Privacy Information Center – a privacy watchdog group who filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act before suing to obtain the release of the documents.
In a letter to the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, the center described the choice of words as ‘broad, vague and ambiguous’.
They point out that it includes ‘vast amounts of First Amendment protected speech that is entirely unrelated to the Department of Homeland Security mission to protect the public against terrorism and disasters.’
A senior Homeland Security official told the Huffington Post that the manual ‘is a starting point, not the endgame’ in maintaining situational awareness of natural and man-made threats and denied that the government was monitoring signs of dissent.
However the agency admitted that the language used was vague and in need of updating.
Spokesman Matthew Chandler told website: ‘To ensure clarity, as part of … routine compliance review, DHS will review the language contained in all materials to clearly and accurately convey the parameters and intention of the program.’
- Try a proxy IP address. There are many free websites that will hide your IP address and replace it with a new one. Be careful that the sites are legitimate. A legitimate site won’t make you download software.
- Look into alternative search engines. There are many companies popping up with search engines that don’t report your searches.
These simple tips can save you a lot of headache and concern when searching the web.