Department of Homeland Security. Their job? To protect us with their 229,000 employees and their $40.6 billion budget. Its stated missions involve anti-terrorism, border security, immigration and customs, cyber security, and disaster prevention and management.
Now tell me how the following fits into their stated goals?
Homeland Security to Compile Database of Journalists, Bloggers
Feel that chill creeping down your spine, my fellow-bloggers? Fellow citizens who still believe in the First Amendment? Journalist friends?
While I feel the chill in my spine, I am more incensed than anything. HOW DARE THEY???
According to Bloomberg Law …
“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.””
Threats to the freedom of the press began emitting from Trump & Co long before the election, and haven’t slowed since. For the past two weeks, Trump has been railing against The Washington Post because he doesn’t like the way they report on him, and has even suggested they be forced to register as a lobbyist group.
Last October, Indiana State Representative Jim Lucas, proposed a bill that would require professional journalists to be licensed by the state, pay a $75 fee, and submit fingerprints. Lucas is a nutcase who was claiming that if “his” 2nd Amendment right to ‘bear arms’ required a license, so should the press’ 1st Amendment right, but even so …
According to an article in Columbia Journalism Review yesterday …
“… liberal journalist Greg Palast announced on his blog that he and fellow producer Matt Pascarella have become subject to a Department of Homeland Security criminal investigation for filming the exterior of an Exxon Mobil refinery [emphasis added] near New Orleans while working on a documentary entitled New Orleans: Big Easy to Big Empty.”
It should be noted that ExxonMobil is a corporation, not a top-secret government facility.
And now DHS is seeking a contractor that can help it monitor ‘traditional news sources as well as social media and identify “any and all” coverage related to the agency or a particular event’, according to a request for information released April 3. But it is in the details that we see a darker intent, for they outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and ‘influencers’, those of us who disperse information to the public.
Since John Kelly left the Department of Homeland Security to become the White House babysitter, the agency has been led by Kirstjen Nielsen, who was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in on 06 December 2017. Nielsen is a Trump sycophant (one of many) who claims he did not make the comment about “shithole countries” (he did) and who claims the threat along the U.S.-Mexican border is real (it isn’t). And now she wants to spend precious DHS resources to monitor journalists all over the world, as well as here at home, even those of us who write humble little blogs. What could possibly go wrong, right?
Freedom of the Press is under attack in many areas of the world, including some led by the very autocrats that Donald Trump appears to nearly worship, such as Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, The Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, and of course let us not forget Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Journalists who tell too much or criticize the regime are jailed and silenced. “But surely that cannot happen here!”, you say. How much are you willing to bet on that?
The rules have changed and they are frequently re-written as per Donald Trump. Agencies now spend their allotted budgets to do the bidding of Trump, rather than to meet the stated goals of their agencies. And the media are under attack daily by the bombastic ‘man’ sitting in the Oval Office. What could go wrong? Imagine, if you will, that Nielsen decided to actually run DHS in the proper way and said to Trump that no, the agency’s priority at this time is not to monitor the activities of journalists. She would be out within a week, and a different sycophant would take her place.
According to ThinkProgress …
“One of the other points that DHS wants to be able to search is the ‘sentiment’ of a story. Was a writer’s take on events pro-America or not? Did a columnist write an op-ed that looked on President Trump’s latest policy trainwreck unfavorably?”
To which Tyler Q. Houlton, on behalf of DHS responded:
“Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”
Oh no, I don’t think so, Mr. Houlton. When asked to clarify what, precisely, he meant by ‘standard practice’, he replied …
“You are embarrassing yourself with these questions and wild conspiracy theories. Just like you monitored the media to find this story, DHS does the same. Enjoy your weekend.”
Not a very professional response, if you ask me. And remember that WE pay his salary.
I have long sensed that Trump took office believing that the entire federal government, including all its agencies, Congress and the Judiciary were his toys to play with and use as he wishes. This is not the case, and for an agency to even be considering infringing on the 1st Amendment freedoms of press and free speech simply because not all of us admire him or choose to dance to his tune, is unconscionable.
Again … What could possibly go wrong?