ANALYSIS – Big Brother keeps growing – As part of the broader government war against free speech, the Department of Defense (DoD) is now using Orwellian means to search the internet, social media, and just about everything else, for things we say or post.
And it’s not just for legitimate physical threats against generals, it will also be looking for simple negative comments about our top military leaders.
And we should all be outraged. This really is scary stuff. This even goes beyond recent reports of the government buying our detailed personal information from data brokers, which I wrote about here.
The military runs a little-known outfit called the Army Protective Services Battalion under the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID). Think of it as the Pentagon’s Secret Service for generals.
Its mission specifically falls under CID’s Executive Protection and Special Investigations Field Office. And it has a lot of resources. Its new webpage notes:
With over 400 assigned special agents, police officers, analysts, physical security specialists, and professional support personnel spread across three continents, the Executive Protection Field Office is the largest office within CID providing worldwide dignitary protection for the Secretary of Defense, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of the Army, Chief of Staff of the Army, and over a dozen other protectees in domestic and overseas locations.
Executive Protection also protects foreign counterparts during official visits to the United States, along with designated former or retired Department of Defense officials. Army CID’s dignitary protection mission is supported by robust protective intelligence and threat management investigative capabilities. [Emphasis added].
This perfectly legitimate organization exists to safeguard our senior military brass, as well as foreign brass visiting our country. As part of its duties, it conducts legitimate ‘protective intelligence’ to identify potential physical threats to its protectees.
I am very familiar with their mission having worked with some of these folks as a military attaché during high-level foreign visits by our Defense Secretary and generals. I also have professional experience with dignitary protection.
All this is very good and vital stuff.
The problem arises when the scope of the protective intelligence mission expands to include things that it shouldn’t. In this case, the unit is tasked to protect current and former high-ranking military officers from “assassination, kidnapping, injury or embarrassment.”
Yes, among the big threats is “embarrassment.”
That’s bad enough since it opens the door to looking into things that they shouldn’t just because they might embarrass a general.
But now, according to an Army procurement document from September 2022, reports the Intercept, the detachment’s mission has expanded to include monitoring social media for “direct, indirect, and veiled” threats and identifying “negative sentiment” regarding its protectees.
And it’s hiring a technology contractor to do its dirty work.
“Negative sentiment” – that is almost as bad as “mean tweets.” It is beyond outrageous.
I have expressed ‘negative sentiment’ toward a few senior military leaders numerous times online and in published articles – including Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley.
And I will continue to do so, as is my 1st amendment right.
The line should be when anyone makes veiled or direct physical threats against any political or military leader, not just says mean things.
As The Intercept reports: “There may be legally valid reasons to intrude on someone’s privacy by searching for, collecting, and analyzing publicly available information, particularly when it pertains to serious crimes and terrorist threats,” Ilia Siatitsa, program director at Privacy International, said.
“However,” he added, “expressing ‘positive or negative sentiment towards a senior high-risk individual’ cannot be deemed sufficient grounds for government agencies to conduct surveillance operations.”
Siatitsa rightly concluded: “The ability to express opinions, criticize, make assumptions, or form value judgments — especially regarding public officials — is a quintessential part of democratic society.”
Beyond that, what if the Army is protecting a Chinese general visiting the United States? Will they surveil or target Americans who are critical of this foreign adversary’s general or of China?
And according to the documents uncovered by The Intercept, the program the Army is procuring for its newly expanded intelligence mission is a dystopian surveillance nightmare.
It will scour everything, everywhere, and then even pinpoint the location of the person making the comment.
This is extremely frightening.
The Army describes their surveillance system as “a reliable social media threat mitigation service” with an “Open-Source Web-based toolkit with advanced capabilities to collect publicly available information (PAI).”
Information is not only grabbed up from Twitter’s “firehose” but also from 4Chan, Reddit, YouTube, Discord, Telegram, private contractors like Dataminr, as well as smartphone apps and advertisers.
Combined with cellular location data the Army could also precisely pinpoint those who might make a mean tweet about current or former military officials.
The Intercept adds that all this data, plus CCTV feeds, radio stations, personal records, and even webcams – would be available via a “universal search selector.” That means they can access just about anything.
The Army also wants the contractor to preserve the “anonymity and security needed” by “using various egress points globally to mask their identity.” This means they can conveniently make it look like the folks doing the snooping are in China or Russia.
This is a very scary domestic spying capability to use against Americans. Congress must investigate this Orwellian program immediately and remove elements that will infringe on our constitutional rights.
Or it will soon be used against you.
Opinions expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of Great America News Desk.