President Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly preparing to contract with private firms to surveil the social media accounts of service members to weed out those with views that the administration deems “concerning.”
The Intercept reports:
An extremism steering committee led by Bishop Garrison, a senior adviser to the secretary of defense, is currently designing the social media screening pilot program, which will “continuously” monitor military personnel for “concerning behaviors,” according to a Pentagon briefing in late March. Although in the past the military has balked at surveilling service members for extremist political views due to First Amendment protections, the pilot program will rely on a private surveillance firm in order to circumvent First Amendment restrictions on government monitoring, according to a senior Pentagon official. Though the firm has not yet been selected, the current front runner is Babel Street, a company that sells powerful surveillance tools including social media monitoring software.
A spokesperson for Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that the congressman was not aware of the alleged plan, saying, “I have discussed this with our defense team and as of right now, we have not heard anything from DoD that would confirm this story.”
A spokesperson for the House Armed Services Committee released the following statement on the matter:
The Committee understands that the Department of Defense is exploring a means of implementing social media screening in conjunction with background investigations. We anticipate that any social media screening would be intended only as an additional means of vetting cleared individuals or those seeking to obtain a security clearance, not as a tool for ongoing surveillance of all men and women in uniform. That said, Secretary Austin has been clear about his intentions to understand to what extent extremism exists in the force and its effect on good order and discipline. We look forward to hearing the results of the stand down and the Department’s plan to move forward.
The report said that the alleged pilot program will search for certain keywords to identify those that the administration deems to be potential extremists, although experts warned that the method was not only an invasion of privacy, but flawed. – READ MORE
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