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DHS: We didn’t ask for lists of family separation protests provided by a cybersecurity firm

The records seem to be referring to hundreds of protests organized on Facebook against the Trump administration’s family separation policy last year.

DHS: We didn’t ask for lists of family separation protests provided by a cybersecurity firm
[Photo: Flickr user Vince Reinhart]

A cybersecurity company called LookingGlass Cyber Solutions provided the Department of Homeland Security with a list of hundreds of protests against the Trump administrator’s family separation policy last year, according to documents obtained by activist groups under the Freedom of Information Act.

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The records seem to be referring to Facebook events, with each row in a spreadsheet including information on the times and locations of the protests. A redacted column appears to have included links to Facebook event pages. The protests were held on June 30, 2018, as part of a nationwide push against the family separation policy.

“As people took to the streets to voice outcry over the government stealing children away from their asylum-seeking parents, the Trump administration was monitoring the protests,” said Jesse Franzblau, senior policy analyst at the National Immigrant Justice Center, in a statement. “This chilling revelation follows a growing trend of government surveillance and policing of immigrant communities and targeting of activists and journalists. The new records show that the administration views voices of dissent as a threat to its disinformation campaigns. Congress should be asking questions about why DHS resources were used to target opposition to hateful anti-immigrant policies, rather than respond to legal demands to repair the damage these policies had caused.”

In a statement emailed to Fast Company, a DHS official said the protest schedule information was sent “unsolicited” to the agency.

“In this particular instance, a private sector entity shared unsolicited information it collected through publically available channels with DHS [Office of Intelligence and Analysis] on protests that were scheduled to take place near Federal facilities,” according to 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 didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from Fast Company. The company declined to comment when contacted by The Intercept citing a confidentiality policy, that outlet reported Monday.

While this particular set of data may have been “unsolicited,” according to prior news reports, LookingGlass has had contracts with DHS since at least 2010.

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Other documents released under FOIA and shared by the immigration activist groups address DHS’s public relations response to the family separation program, including an emphasis on rhetoric around human trafficking.

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About the author

Steven Melendez is an independent journalist living in New Orleans.

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