The Oversight Project, run by conservative think tank Heritage, has sued the Biden administration over surveillance of people through social media.
The lawsuit demands the release of documents related to the DHS’ contract with Babel Street, a Virginia-based company that provides surveillance and data mining technologies.
We obtained a copy of the lawsuit for you here.
The DHS has a contract with Babel Street to provide Babel X, a tool that scrapes data from smartphone apps and online sources. According to a report on Heritage’s website, government agencies “can aggregate and search that data by any number of keywords and in many languages.”
Speaking to The Washington Post in 2017, the company’s founder Jeff Chapman said: “There are billions of smartphones on the planet. All you have to do is listen to them.”
“The Department of Homeland Security, county governments, law enforcement agencies and the FBI use it,” The Washington Post’s report said. “The Pentagon was Babel Street’s first customer. Agencies focused on counterterrorism would use the company’s technology to monitor terrorists’ online chatter to predict attacks. Police departments and the FBI soon started signing up for the service, public contract documents reviewed by The Washington Post show.”
The scope of the government’s use of Babel Street’s products is not clear. The lawsuit by the Oversight Project against the government might just uncover how widely the Biden administration is conducting surveillance on Americans through social media.
On filing the lawsuit, director of the Oversight Project Mike Howell said: “The Department of Homeland Security has completely abused its authority to come up with outrageous intelligence assessments since Biden took office. Most recently, while pro-abortion extremists firebombed pregnancy centers and engaged in unlawful intimidation efforts outside Supreme Court justices’ homes, DHS was warning law enforcement about potential violence from pro-life Americans. How do they come up with this nonsense?
“One way is through targeted surveillance of social media and paying private companies to do work that is constitutionally questionable. That’s why we are demanding that DHS turn over information related to its contract with Babel Street. The Oversight Project’s requests for more information on this are reasonable, lawful, and straightforward. DHS should have to explain what it is paying Babel Street—with American taxpayer dollars—to do with its massive data collection operation, and more importantly, what it is planning to do with that personal, private data. DHS has so far refused to provide answers to these imminently reasonable questions, a refusal which raises far more questions and concerns than it resolves. The American people have a right to this information.”