Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, with Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici, today demanded answers from the Department of Homeland Security, following new reports that the department spied on Portland protesters’ phones.
“These recent reports, which allege that DHS has deployed high-tech surveillance technologies against protesters in Portland, raise serious concerns, which Congress has a responsibility to investigate,” they wrote in a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, whom both the Government Accountability Office and a federal judge have declared to be serving in his post illegally.
To prevent the government from infringing in Americans’ Constitutional rights to free speech and privacy, any phone surveillance or search requires approval from an independent judge, except in emergency situations, the members pointed out.
They asked DHS to respond to the following questions by October 9:
- During a July 23, 2020, briefing for Senate intelligence committee staff, Brian Murphy, then the Acting Under Secretary for Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) stated that DHS I&A had neither collected nor exploited or analyzed information obtained from the devices or accounts of protesters or detainees. On July 31, 2020, Senator Wyden and six other Senators on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence wrote to Mr. Murphy to confirm the statement he had made to committee staff. DHS has yet to respond to that letter. Please confirm whether or not Mr. Murphy’s statement during the July 23, 2020, briefing was accurate at the time, and if it is still accurate.
- Has DHS, whether directly, or with the assistance of any other government agency, obtained or analyzed data extracted from phones of protesters in Portland? If yes, for each phone, did the government obtain prior authorization from a judge before extracting data?
- Has DHS, whether directly, or with the assistance of any other government agency, obtained or analyzed data collected through the surveillance of protesters’ phones, including tracking their locations or intercepting communications content or metadata? If yes, for each phone that was surveilled, did the government obtain prior authorization from a judge before conducting this surveillance?
- Has DHS used commercial data sources, including open source intelligence products, to investigate, identify, or track protesters or conduct network analysis? If yes, please identify each commercial data source used by DHS, describe the information DHS obtained, how DHS used it, whether it was subsequently shared with any other government agency, and whether DHS sought and obtained authorization from a court before querying the data source.
Read the full letter here.