Tag Archives: DHS

DHS “Media Monitoring Services” to Compile Database of Journalists

Washington, D.C. – A recently revealed plan to conduct surveillance of journalists, bloggers and other “media influencers,” by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has raised red flags among civil libertarians.

The program— known as “Media Monitoring Services”— is designed to give a contractor company “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” The solicitation for a suitable contractor was posted on April 3 on FedBizOps.gov for interested parties to apply. The listing says the deadline for contractor applicants is April 13 and that only companies “capable of performing the requirements of the attached Statement of Work (SOW) would be considered.

Forbes reported that “details of the attached Statement of Work, however, outline a plan to gather and monitor the public activities of media professionals and influencers and are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide.”

The Media Monitoring Services program, advertised on April 3, states:

1.1 Background

NPPD’s mission is to lead the national effort to protect and enhance the resilience of the nation’s physical and cyber infrastructure. NPPD includes the Office of the Under Secretary (OUS) and five sub-components: the Office of Cybersecurity and Communications (CS&C), the Office of infrastructure Protection (IP), the Federal Protective Service (FPS), the Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) and the Office of Cyber and Infrastructure Analysis (OCIA), which are headquartered with the National Capital Region (NCR). Along with NPPD/OUS, Public Affairs is responsible for media communication.


The contractor shall provide NPPD/OUS with traditional and social media monitoring and communications solutions.


Services shall enable NPPD/OUS to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.

NPPD/OUS has a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach Federal, state, local, tribal and private partners.

As Forbes has noted, it’s apparent that the “Media Monitoring Services” program is not about “media communication, but about media surveillance. The “monitor[ing] traditional news sources as well as social media” or “identify[ing] any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event” is not about communication, as purported by DHS, but rather, about monitoring media— specifically journalists and “media influencers.”

Revealing the broad scope of the DHS-sponsored surveillance under the heading “Specific Requirements/Tasks,” the SOW lists “Task One: Online & Social Media Monitoring,” which involves the ability to “track global online sources for coverage relevant to Washington” and lists bullet points:

  • Ability to track > 290,000 global news sources
  • Ability to track online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry publications, local sources, national/international outlets, traditional news sources, and social media
  • Ability to track media coverage in > 100 languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Translation function to instantly translate these articles to English
  • Ability to create up to 20 searches with each unlimited keywords
  • Unlimited coverage per search (no cap on coverage)
  • Ability to change the searches at keywords at any given time
  • Ability to create unlimited data tracking, statistical breakdown, and graphical analyses on any coverage on an ad-hoc basis

Forbes revealed the ominous and pervasive nature of the media monitoring program:

Any and all media coverage,” as you might imagine, is quite broad and includes “online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry publications, local sources, national/international outlets, traditional news sources, and social media.”

The database will be browsable by “location, beat and type of influencer,” and for each influencer, the chosen contractor should “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”

One aspect of the media coverage to be gathered is its “sentiment.

The New American reported that DHS planning “a long-term game is made clear in the ‘Period of Performance’ section. The options include “(1) 12-month, and four (4) 12-month option periods.”

After the listing saw public news coverage, DHS spokesman Tyler Q. Houlton tweeted:

While DHS claimed that this is “standard practice,” Bloomberg’s Big Law Business noted that “the request comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through ‘fake news.'”


U.S. Government Investigating Alleged Data Leak of Justice Department, DHS Employees

Internet hackers, who appeared to be activists in support of Palestine, claimed to have publicly released the personal data of 20,000 Justice Department employees including some within the FBI on Monday after gaining entry to the Justice Department’s database.

The hackers reportedly claimed via Twitter that the leak was in support of Palestine, and was a direct message to the U.S. government to pressure them into ceasing ties with Israel and to also bring awareness to the occupation of Gaza and attacks by Israel.

Before releasing the data of the 20,000 DOJ employees, the group began the leak on Sunday evening by releasing a list containing over 9,000 Department of Homeland Security employees’ names, emails, current country location, employment titles and phone numbers, with a warning stating that there was more to come.

Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.44.21 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.27.50 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.27.21 PM
Screen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.44.33 PMScreen Shot 2016-02-10 at 3.28.43 PM

An individual who contacted Motherboard and identified himself as one of the hackers claimed that he was able to access the employee information after he “compromised” a DOJ employee’s email address. After an unsuccessful attempt to access the DOJ web portal with that email address, he reportedly pretended to be an employee who needed assistance. He said he called the web department to obtain an access code needed to obtain the files. “They asked if I had a token code, I said no, they said that’s fine—just use our one,” the hacker told Motherboard.

After the web department gave him the information he needed, he gained admittance into the portal. According to the Telegraph, the hacker claimed that the group also currently has credit card numbers as well as military emails in their possession from the hack. The Telegraph noted that the “list appears to be real.”

The Department of Justice issued this statement in response to the leak: “This unauthorized access is still under investigation; however, there is no indication at this time that there is any breach of sensitive personally identifiable information,” DOJ spokesperson Peter Carr said in a statement.

While the Justice Department’s statement claimed that there doesn’t appear to be a “breach of sensitive personally identifiable information,” Motherboard noted that the FBI is taking steps to prevent the data from spreading.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, CryptoBin, the site that was reportedly hosting the leaked data, has become more difficult to access. “A Department of Justice spokesman, who previously confirmed that the agency was investigating a possible breach of its systems, declined to comment when asked if the agency had anything to do with the takedown,” reported the Chronicle.

DHS Report: Nearly Half a Million Foreigners Overstayed Visas in 2015

The Department of Homeland Security released a report on Tuesday, which claimed that out of the nearly 45 million foreigners who legally entered the United States in 2015, nearly half a million stayed after their visas expired.

In the “Entry/Exit Overstay” report, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson noted that out of the 44,928,381 non-immigrant admissions to the United States for business or pleasure, who were expected to depart in 2015, at least 527,127 of the indivuduals overstayed their visas.

By the end of the 2015 fiscal year, which ranged from Oct. 1, 2014 to Sept. 30, 2015, the report claimed that the number of “Suspected In-Country Overstays” was at 482,781. The number was then lowered to 416,500 by DHS as of Jan. 4, 2016.

Johnson noted that properly “determining lawful status is more complicated than simply matching entry and exit data,” because an individual may apply for and receive a visa extension while still in the U.S.

Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at the Pew Research Center, described the report as a step in the right direction. “We’re starting to get a better picture of how people flow through the immigration system with this report,” he said. “But, it’s incomplete.”

When breaking down the number of individuals who overstayed their visas in 2015, the report found that some of the largest numbers were from countries including Germany with 21,394, Italy with 17,661 and France with 11,973.

However, the report also found that out of the “Suspected In-Country Overstays,” 219 were from Afghanistan, 681 from Iraq, 56 from Libya, 1,435 from Pakistan, 440 from Syria, and 219 from Yemen— all countries where the U.S. has conducted drone strikes during the Obama administration.

[RELATED: Reality Check: Obama Pushed Perpetual War In Seven Countries]

The Senate Immigration Subcommittee has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday to discuss and investigate the report. In a statement, the committee expressed concern about President Obama’s policies contributing to the number of “Suspected In-Country Overstays.”

“By not enforcing visa overstays, the administration has flung the border open—millions get temp visas and then freely violate their entry contracts and shred their eviction notices,” the statement said. “Further, DHS has refused to complete the legally required biometric tracking system.”

According to the report, DHS classifies visa overstay issues as “important for national security, public safety, immigration enforcement, and immigration benefit application processing.”

California Mayor Detained by DHS Without Warrant

SAN FRANCISCO, October 5, 2015–  Stockton, California Mayor Anthony R. Silva, who was elected in November 2012, said in a statement that he was recently detained by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) at the San Francisco International airport on his way home from a trip to China.

Silva’s two laptops and mobile phone were reportedly confiscated, and he said he was not allowed to leave until he relinquished his personal passwords to the devices. According to Silva, officers provided no warrant or court documents at the scene.

“DHS agents confiscated all my electronic devices including my personal cell phone. Unfortunately, they were not willing or able to produce a search warrant or any court documents suggesting they had a legal right to take my property,” said Silva. “In addition, they were persistent about requiring my passwords for all devices.”

Silva’s attorney, Mark Reichel, claimed the confiscation of personal property and passwords was illegal.

Silva noted in a statement that “They indicated that this action to confiscate personal property at the airport was in fact routine and not unusual.” Silva said that he was also told he had “no right for a lawyer to be present” and that being a U.S. citizen did not “entitle me to rights that I probably thought.”

United States Customs and Immigration Enforcement spokesman James Schwab would not comment on why Silva was detained.

“We can’t control what the mayor or his representatives say … but that won’t dictate what we do or don’t release to the media,” Schwab said. “Our priority is assuring the integrity of the investigative process and generally speaking we don’t acknowledge that an investigation is underway … unless or until charges are filed, arrests are made, or documents are publicly filed with the court that confirm a probe is taking place.”

While Silva said he was willing to comply if the confiscation of his property was legal, he still had concerns.

“I think the American people should be extremely concerned about their personal rights and privacy,” he said. “As I was being searched at the airport, there was a Latino couple to my left, and an Asian couple to my right also being aggressively searched. I briefly had to remind myself that this was not North Korea or Nazi Germany. This is the land of the Free.”

FOLLOW MICHAEL LOTFI ON Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn.

NH Library Suspends Tor Support Following Email From DHS

A small public library in New Hampshire has recently become the backdrop of a conflict brewing between internet privacy advocates and law enforcement, as city officials and police have taken aim at a project providing privacy-protecting measures to public libraries.

The Kilton Public Library, located in Lebanon, New Hampshire, became the first library in the United States to offer a relay node for Tor, an anonymous internet browsing service.

“The library allowed Tor users around the world to bounce their Internet traffic through the library, thus masking users’ locations,” according to ProPublica.

The Concord Monitor reported that Kilton Library did not offer the Tor browser, but it was “was using a portion of its infrastructure to handle traffic for Tor.”

The introduction of the Tor relay node at Kilton Library, which was announced in late July, was part of a larger initiative launched by the Library Freedom Project (LFP). LFP, based in Boston, advocates for a “privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries” by working with librarians across the United States and providing them with information about “surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance.”

One of these digital tools is the relay node, which allows Tor users to preserve their anonymity. LFP is striving to provide relays to libraries nationwide. Currently, there are about 1,000 Tor relay nodes around the world.

LFP’s Alison Macrina visited Kilton Library in the spring and offered a privacy training session. After receiving approval from the library board, she also assisted the library in establishing a Tor relay node.

A little more than a month passed before a special agent within a Department of Homeland Security office in Boston caught wind of LFP’s progress and relayed it to New Hampshire law enforcement. The information was then given to a sergeant at the Lebanon Police Department.

According to ProPublica, DHS spokesman Shawn Neudauer said the DHS agent was offering “visibility/situational awareness” to the proper authorities.

A meeting occured soon after the DHS alert, and police and city officials discussed the possibility that Tor could be abused by criminals.

Lebanon Police Lt. Matthew Isham, expressing worry over Kilton’s new Tor service, said that “for all the good that a Tor may allow as far as speech, there is also the criminal side that would take advantage of that as well,” and “we felt we needed to make the city aware of it.”

Lebanon Deputy City Manager Paula Maville echoed Isham’s concerns and said that Tor’s potential association with criminal operations resulted in “concern from a public relations perspective and we wanted to get those concerns on the table.”

Following the meeting, the library agreed to put Kilton’s the project on hold. “We really weren’t anticipating that there would be any controversy at all,” said Lebanon Public Libraries director Sean Fleming.

“Tor’s hidden services let users publish web sites and other services without needing to reveal the location of the site. Individuals also use Tor for socially sensitive communication: chat rooms and web forums for rape and abuse survivors, or people with illnesses. Journalists use Tor to communicate more safely with whistleblowers and dissidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) use Tor to allow their workers to connect to their home website while they’re in a foreign country, without notifying everybody nearby that they’re working with that organization,” explains Tor Project’s overview of the service.

The decision to pause the relay node precedes a scheduled Sept. 15 meeting, where the library board of trustees will vote on whether or not to continue the service. Local activists have organized a rally, scheduled before the meeting, to show support for Kilton Library’s staff and to call attention to the issue of internet privacy and preserving free speech online.

Supreme Court May Review U.S. Government’s Cellphone ‘Kill Switch’

On August 11, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a petition with the  U.S. Supreme Court in their latest effort to force the U.S. government to reveal information about a cellphone shutdown policy, also known as a “kill switch”.

EPIC has fought for records related to the program since July 2011, when it was revealed that Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officials in San Franscico shut down cellular networks during a protest of a murdered homeless man. BART denies blocking cell networks. In July 2012, EPIC submitted a FOIA request to the Department of Homeland Security to find out more about the procedures governing such actions.

The DHS initially claimed that they were “unable to locate or identify any responsive records.” However, on November 12, 2013, a District Court ruled that the DHS improperly withheld information, specifically information regarding something known as Standard Operating Procedure 303 or SOP 303. The DHS appealed this decision and was once again allowed to withhold records. Now EPIC is taking the fight to the Supreme Court.

In their petition to the Supreme Court, EPIC argues that, “[a]bsent Supreme Court review, the decision of the court of appeals could transform the FOIA from a disclosure to a withholding statute.”

Little is known about these programs, but EPIC writes that “a 2011 Report from the White House asserted that the National Security Council and the Office of Science and Technology Policy have the legal authority to control private communications systems in the United States during times of war or other national emergencies.

Also, on July 6, 2012, the White House approved an Executive Order seeking to ensure the continuity of government communications during a national crisis. As part of the Executive Order, DHS was granted the authority to seize private facilities, when necessary, effectively shutting down or limiting civilian communications.”

EPIC has asked the court for three specific pieces of information regarding the kill switch program. They want to see the full text of SOP 303; the full text of the pre-determined “series of questions” that determines if a shutdown is necessary; and any executing protocols related to the implementation of SOP 303, distributed to DHS, other federal agencies, or private companies, including protocols related to oversight of shutdown determinations.

SOP 303 is invaluable in helping the public understanding the true nature and depth of this program. Without understanding how basic procedure around the kill switch works the public is operating in the dark, never knowing when the government might decide conditions permit a shutdown of cellular networks. EPIC also argues that Freedom of Information Act requests, specifically Exemption 7(F) which allows for withholding documents if they are expected to endanger the safety of any individual, are being abused.

What will be the outcome? Will the U.S. Supreme Court take the case and finally give the American public a glimpse into yet another program operated by the State? Or will Americans continue to operate in ignorance? Leave your comments below.

TSA Back Under Fire After Failing to Identify 73 Airport Workers with Terror Ties

Earlier this month, Truth in Media reported on the fact that the Transportation Security Administration abysmally failed a Department of Homeland Security performance test in which 67 of 70 undercover DHS agents were able to slip through security at dozens of US airports with potential weapons and explosives. In response, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson benched TSA Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway and reassigned him to the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement. Secretary Johnson then promoted TSA Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield to replace Carraway as head of the TSA.

Meanwhile, a new Department of Homeland Security inspector general report, released last Thursday, identified the fact that the TSA’s airport employee screening procedures failed to identify 73 workers “linked to terrorism.” Fox News notes that the 73 workers were employed by airlines, vendors, and other airport employers.

The TSA did not identify these individuals through its vetting operations because it is not authorized to receive all terrorism-related categories under current interagency watch-listing policy,” read the report. The DHS inspector general called the TSA’s airport worker security checks “generally effective,” but noted that some employees slipped through the cracks because the TSA “relied on airport operators to perform criminal history and work authorization checks, but had limited oversight over these commercial entities.

The report said of the 73 workers with alleged terror ties, “TSA acknowledged that these individuals were cleared for access to secure airport areas despite representing a potential transportation security threat.

TSA had less effective controls in place for ensuring that aviation workers 1) had not committed crimes that would disqualify them from having unescorted access to secure airport areas, and 2) had lawful status and were authorized to work in the United States,” read the report.

The report also determined that “thousands of records used for vetting workers contained potentially incomplete or inaccurate data, such as an initial for a first name and missing social security numbers” and that the “TSA did not have appropriate edit checks in place to reject such records from vetting.

Without complete and accurate information, TSA risks credentialing and providing unescorted access to secure airport areas for workers with potential to harm the nation’s air transportation system,” the inspector general concluded.

Former TSA official Chad Wolf said in the above-embedded video by CNN, “These are airport workers, so this really speaks to the issue of the insider threat. TSA’s primary way to guard against that is to make sure that these background checks are complete and they’re exhaustive, and what this report says is they’re not complete, nor are they exhaustive.

DHS Chief Reassigns TSA Administrator Over Security Test Failures

Yesterday, Truth in Media brought news of a Department of Homeland Security report, first published by ABC News, which identified the fact that the Transportation Security Administration utterly failed a DHS security test in which undercover “red team” agents posed as passengers and attempted to slip through checkpoints at US airports carrying potential weapons or explosives. Over the course of the test, TSA agents allowed 67 out of 70 armed undercover agents to slip through checkpoints at dozens of American airports, raising questions about the bureau’s ability to protect airline passengers.

Late Monday afternoon, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson ordered a series of changes aimed at fixing the security vulnerabilities. Fox News notes that Secretary Johnson has reassigned TSA Acting Administrator Melvin Carraway to work in the DHS Office of State and Local Law Enforcement and has promoted Acting Deputy Director Mark Hatfield to Carraway’s former position as TSA Acting Administrator.

We take these findings very seriously. The numbers in these reports never look good out of context, but they are a critical element in the continual evolution of our aviation security,” read a statement by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.

Additionally, Secretary Johnson ordered a review of the agency’s screening equipment and that TSA officers undergo extra training. He also plans to continue the undercover testing program.

Former White House counter-terrorism official Frank Cilluffo told CBS This Morning in the above-embedded video that, when it comes to security, “We’ve got to be right 100% of the time. The adversary only has to be right once.

According to The New York Times, President Obama nominated Coast Guard Vice Admiral Peter Neffenger to serve as TSA Administrator back in April, but Neffenger has yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Secretary Johnson called on senators to confirm Neffenger in the wake of the failed tests.

An aide to Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) told Fox News that the test’s findings that have been published so far in news reports “raise valid concerns in light of earlier inspector general findings and ‘red team’ tests of TSA’s vulnerabilities.” Said Senator Johnson’s aide, “Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to secure our air travel system. It’s important for that goal to be met.

UPDATE: CNN Lied About “Right-Wing” Extremism Threat Greater Than ISIS

Despite a widely circulated article from CNN, the latest DHS report on extremism does not state that Right-Wing Extremism is more dangerous than ISIS.

Last week we reported on the newly released  intelligence report produced by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigations which called attention to an apparent domestic terror threat from ” right-wing sovereign citizen extremists.”

The report claimed that there have been 24 sovereign citizen attacks in the United States since 2010. According to the report these “extremists” believe they are not bound by the law and will assert their rights on a regular basis when confronted by police. This could be a traffic stop or refusing to obey court orders.

Now Reason.com has obtained the actual report – CNN failed to show a copy of  the report – and it offers stark contrasts from what was originally reported. Despite CNN claiming that the threat from sovereign citizens was greater than ISIS or included “right-wing” extremists, the report does not state that at all. In fact, the entire report does not even use the term “right-wing” or even mention the Islamic State. Statements on the alleged danger of right-wing extremists came from a separate report and quotes from the Southern Poverty Law Center. Not the actual report itself.

Some key points CNN failed to mention include the fact that the majority of individuals who identify as sovereign citizens are nonviolent. Instead the report focuses on  “sovereign citizen extremists,” or SCEs. The report finds that violence from these individuals is at best sporadic and expected to stay “at the same sporadic level” in the coming year. The violence in these cases is rarely planned in advance, the report concluded. This can include plotting a murder or sending threatening letters, however they tend to be traffic stops gone wrong. Twenty-four cases of violence connected to this apparent movement have been documented since 2010. Only 2 of those 24 cases involved SCEs successfully killing anyone. Hardly the growing threat CNN wants you to believe.

As I wrote last week, when governments criminalize innocent actions of free people there will be resistance. When governments propagandize the people to mistrust those who assert their rights, there will be division. Ultimately it is up to each of us to communicate with our neighbors and family members so they understand the difference between those pursuing violence and those attempting to live free. A full list of the incidents from the DHS report appears below.

One last thing to remember as you look at these 24 incidents: At least one of them (Schaeffer Cox) was arrested after being encouraged and essentially entrapped by federal authorities. Knowing the FBI’s history with creating or encouraging terror attacks using confidential informants, it is important to take the information provided by the DHS with a grain of salt.

Click here for an interactive map of the incidents.

• March 2010: Brody James Whitaker shoots at the Florida State Highway Patrol after a traffic stop.

• April 2010: Walter Fitzpatrick plans a “citizens’ arrest” of a Knoxville jury foreman who refused to indict President Barack Obama.

• May 2010: Jerry and Joseph Kane get into a shootout with the police after a traffic stop. They kill two officers and are themselves killed.

• June 2010: A sovereign citizen begins a multi-year series of written and verbal threats against law enforcement officials in Sweetgrass, Montana.

• September 2010: Victor Dwayne White of West Odessa, Texas, shoots and wounds two sheriff’s deputies and a utility worker who came onto his property to access an oil well. A 22-hour standoff ensues.

• January 2011: David Russell Myrland is arrested after threatening to use “deadly force” if necessary to “arrest” the mayor of Kirkland, Washington, and other officials.

• March 2011: Francis Shaeffer Cox conspires with confederates to kill a judge and an IRS officer in Anchorage, Alaska.

• June 2011: A domestic disturbance call brings police to the home of William Foust in Page, Arizona; Foust is shot and killed in the ensuing altercation.

• July 2011: James Tesi of Colleyville, Texas, fires on police after an attempted traffic stop.

• November 2011: A property dispute brings the authorites to Rodney Brossart’s home in Lakota, South Dakota. He threatens to shoot the officers, and a stand-off follows.

• February 2012: Vahe Ohanian visits a California Highway Patrol station and a sheriff’s station in Santa Clarita, California, threatening to “snipe” officers. (*)

• February 2012: Matthew O’Neill pleads guilty to sending an envelope containing white powder to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

• August 2012: In LaPlace, Louisiana, a traffic stop leads to two shootouts with members of a small sovereign-citizen group headed by Terry Lyn Smith, one at the vehicle and the second at a trailer park. Two police officers are killed and three wounded.

• September 2012: Phillip Monroe Ballard attempts to solicit the murder of the judge presiding over his tax trial. • March 2013: Jeffrey Allen Wright of Navarre, Florida, threatens officers with a gun when they try to serve a warrant. He is shot and killed.

• June 2013: In Snellville, Georgia, a man sends police a letter threatening death if they interfere with members of a sovereign-citizen group called the “Embassy of Granville.”

• June 2013: Lewis Pollard points a gun at officers at his Fruita, Colorado, residence. He is shot and killed.

• July 2013: Eric Stanberry Jr. pulls a gun on a security guard outside a Nashville strip club, identifying himself as a “sovereign peace officer.” Police tase him.

• July 2013: An incarcerated sovereign citizen plans to kill a federal agent and a witness.

• July 2013: David John McCormick refuses to let the Coast Guard board his boat. After lunging at one of the crew, he is arrested for assaulting a federal officer.

• August 2013: David Allen Brutsche and Devon Campbell Newman are arrested for allegedly planning to “arrest,” “try,” and “execute” police officers.

• March 2014: Israel Rondon of Middleburg Heights, Ohio, fires at deputies serving a warrant. He is killed.

• June 2014: When deputies try to serve an eviction notice on Earl Carlson Harris of Ashland, Oregon, he threatens them with a rifle and is killed.

• June 2014: On federal land in Nevada County, California, Brent Douglas Cole allegedly fires at employees of the Bureau of Land Management and the California Highway Patrol as they attempt to tow vehicles from Cole’s unsanctioned campground.

Senate Democrats Agree to DHS Funding Bill to Protect Obama’s Immigration Order

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 98-2 on a bill that would continue to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The bill, which comes three days before a partial DHS shutdown, has created controversy between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, and was only agreed upon after Majority Leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, removed provisions added by the House that would have reversed President Obama’s executive immigration action.

The Hill reported that the two votes against the bill were from Republican Senators James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Harry Reid, called the bill a “clean Homeland Security funding substitute,” and said that Democrats in the Senate would only support it on the condition that it did not reverse Obama’s immigration order.

According to the Huffington Post, under the agreement presented by McConnell, the Senate will “resolve the DHS funding issue and then vote on a separate bill” from Republican Senator Susan Collins “to block Obama’s executive actions.

The Associated Press noted that the bill will now be sent to the House, where some conservatives called the new plan a “surrender to the White House.”

The Hill reported that several Republicans criticized this “clean” plan, and many of them vowed they would “not vote to fund agencies that would be carrying out Obama’s immigration order.”

As previously reported, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson addressed the possibility of a shutdown, while on Meet the Press on Sunday. While also commenting on threats made against the Mall of America by Islamist militants in Somalia, Johnson said it was “bizarre and absurd” that the U.S. government was having this discussion “in these challenging times.”

Following Johnson’s comments, DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron released a statement admitting that the department was not “aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center.”

Homeland Security Admits: No Credible Terrorist Plot Against Mall of America

Following threats from Islamist militants in Somalia against the Mall of America, and the chief of the Department of Homeland Security’s warning that visitors to the mall should be “particularly vigilant,” the department later admitted that it was not aware of any credible plot from the militants.

On Sunday, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson appeared on Meet the Press with Chuck Todd. Johnson said that the American public needed to be “particularly vigilant” in response to the militant’s threats.

We’re in a new phase in global terrorist threat right now which involves core al-Qaeda, but now other groups, the ISIL group being the most prominent example of that,” Johnson said.

This terror threat comes at a time when Homeland Security is waiting for Congress to pass legislation to continue funding the department. The upcoming deadline is Feb. 27.

Regarding a possible shutdown, Johnson said, “It’s bizarre and absurd that we’re even having this discussion in these challenging times, given the global terrorist threat we’ve just been talking about, given the harsh winter we’re in the midst of, and all the other things that we do.”

The Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, released a statement regarding the threat:

Mall of America is aware of the threatening video that was released, which included mention and images of the mall. We take any potential threat seriously and respond appropriately. We have implemented extra security precautions, some may be noticeable to guests and others won’t.”

Reuters reported that while security officials are “worried about the risk of an attack on U.S. soil by a solitary militant,” the group al Shabaab “has not appeared to gain much traction with most Somalis in the West, including in Minneapolis.”

Following Johnson’s comments, DHS spokeswoman Marsha Catron released a statement on Sunday saying that the department has worked with both the FBI and “private sector partners,” and has found no evidence of a credible threat to the mall.

“We are not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center,” Catron said.

DHS Report Warns of “Sovereign Citizen”, Right-Wing Domestic Terror Threat

A new intelligence report produced by the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Bureau of Investigations is calling attention to an apparent domestic terror threat from ” right-wing sovereign citizen extremists”, according to CNN.

The report claims that there have been 24 sovereign citizen attacks in the United States since 2010. According to the report these “extremists” believe they are not bound by the law and will assert their rights on a regular basis when confronted by police. This could be a traffic stop or refusing to obey court orders.

News of the report comes as the Obama Administration is holding a three-day conference analyzing both international and domestic threats from terrorism. According to the report some local and federal law enforcement agencies view the threat from so-called sovereign citizens to be equal or greater to the threat from the Islamic State and similar groups.

The term sovereign citizens has become a catch all term for those who assert their rights and refuse to accept what they see as unjust or immoral orders from police officers or other authorities. There have been several instances of individuals allegedly calling themselves sovereigns shooting or plotting to kill police officers. The report states “law enforcement officers will remain the primary target of (sovereign citizen) violence over the next year.”

 “(Sovereign citizen) violence during 2015 will occur most frequently during routine law enforcement encounters at a suspect’s home, during enforcement stops and at government offices.” – DHS Intelligence Report on Domestic Terror

This latest report comes after Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department would revive a task force on domestic terrorism in an attempt to stop violence within the United States.  Last Summer, Mr. Holder stated that the Domestic Terrorism Executive Committee would work to eliminate the danger from violent individuals who may be motivated by anti-government or racist views. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Division of the Justice Department and the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee are in charge of the efforts. The committee was originally launched to focus on right-wing extremism in the aftermath of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

As Americans are waking up to the mass surveillance programs and growing police state around the country, many are pursuing knowledge of their rights when dealing with police officers and government officials. Rather than being violent extremists these are everyday, hard-working Americans who wish to feel safe and secure in their own homes. An increased focus on police violence against unarmed citizens has caused a rift between communities and the authorities. The US governments search for “domestic extremists” is likely to net innocent individuals who are not pursuing violence but rather simply attempting to live free of government interference in their lives.

When governments criminalize innocent actions of free people there will be resistance. When governments propagandize the people to mistrust those who assert their rights, there will be division. Ultimately it is up to each of us to communicate with our neighbors and family members so they understand the difference between those pursuing violence and those attempting to live free.


DHS Delays Funding on Obama’s Immigration Plan after TX Judge Grants Injunction

Following a temporary restraining order from a federal judge in Texas on Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Tuesday that it will not go forward with its original plan to implement President Obama’s executive immigration order on Wednesday.

The New York Times reported that the injunction, which was filed by judge Andrew Hanen of the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas, “prohibited the Obama administration from carrying out programs the president announced on Nov. 20 that would offer protection from deportation and work permits to as many as five million undocumented immigrants.”

Texas is not alone in its efforts to halt Obama’s executive order, and is part of a coalition of 26 states that have filed a lawsuit against the federal government to block the order on immigration.

According to the Huffington Post, while the injunction is “not a final ruling on the constitutionality of Obama’s action,” it will “prevent the policies from moving forward as the lawsuit proceeds.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said that although he “strongly disagrees” with the injunction, the DHS recognizes that it “must comply” and will suspend the expansion of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, along with the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program.

“Accordingly, the Department of Homeland Security will not begin accepting requests for the expansion of DACA tomorrow, February 18, as originally planned,” said Johnson. “Until further notice, we will also suspend the plan to accept requests for DAPA.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, said that Senate Democrats, “especially those who’ve voiced opposition to the president’s executive overreach,” should end their “partisan filibuster” of DHS funding.

Senator Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said that he felt this ruling was “very unlikely to be upheld.

It’s perfectly appropriate to take this issue to court,” said Schumer. “But it is completely unacceptable for Republicans to hold up funding for the Department of Homeland Security while the case wends its way through the legal system.”

House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, said he will continue to “follow the case as it moves through the legal process.”

The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed,” said Boehner. “Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security department.”

In a video from Reuters, Obama addressed the injunction, saying that he disagrees with Hanen’s ruling and the Justice Department will appeal:

Historic: Feds Notify 7 Americans of Their Removal from No-Fly List

Back in June of this year, Annabelle Bamforth at BenSwann.com reported on a case that the American Civil Liberties Union filed on behalf of 13 Americans who found themselves on the federal government’s no-fly list. At that June hearing, US District Judge Anna Brown ruled that the Department of Homeland Security’s Traveler Redress Inquiry Program, the process through which Americans found to be on the no-fly list request their removal, violates due process rights and is unconstitutional. At issue were the facts that individuals who contacted DHS through the program almost never received a meaningful reply and that those who were removed from the list were not being notified, as officials claimed doing so would jeopardize national security.

Now, Ars Technica is reporting that the Department of Justice, for the first time in US history, just announced the names of seven Americans who were removed from the no-fly list in response to the ruling. In a letter dated October 10, the DOJ declared that Ayman Latif, Elias Mustafa Mohamed, Nagib Ali Ghaleb, Abdullatif Muthanna, Ibraheim Y Mashal, Salah Ali Ahmed, and Mashaal Rana, seven of the 13 plaintiffs on the ACLU’s lawsuit, have been cleared to board planes again in the land of the free. NPR notes that the six additional Americans listed on the ACLU’s lawsuit who have not yet been cleared will be told the rationale behind their inclusion on the list by January of 2015, at which time they will be allowed to defend themselves from those allegations.

One of the Americans who was cleared in Friday’s letter from the DOJ, Ibraheim Mashal, is a veteran who served his country in the US Marine Corps. In a statement cited by Ars Technica, Marshal said, “More than four years ago, I was denied boarding at an airport, surrounded by TSA agents, and questioned by the FBI… That day, many freedoms that I took for granted were robbed from me. I was never told why this happened, whether I was officially on the list, or what I could do to get my freedoms back. Now, I can resume working for clients who are beyond driving distance. I can attend weddings, graduations, and funerals that were too far away to reach by car or train. I can travel with my family to Hawaii, Jamaica, or anywhere else on vacation.”

Ars Technica notes that, according to a leaked federal “watchlisting guidance” manual, over a dozen federal agencies have the power to nominate people for terrorist watch lists and “irrefutable evidence or concrete facts are not necessary” for inclusion. Over the past five years, 1.5 million Americans have been nominated for inclusion on terrorist watch lists. 470,000 names were nominated in 2013, of which 4,915 were rejected. By August of 2013, 680,000 people had been listed on the government’s master terrorist list, of which 280,000 are not accused of having any ties to a terrorist organization. By that same date, 47,000 people and 800 Americans had been identified as being on the no-fly list.

The ACLU declared victory in an October 10 blog post about the case and released this quote by the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Security Project, Hina Shamsi, “This is a victory for transparency and fairness over untenable government secrecy and stonewalling. After years of being blacklisted and denied due process, seven of our clients know they can fly again, and the rest will soon be able to fight back against their unjust flying ban… The opportunity that the plaintiffs in our case are finally getting to clear their names should be available to everyone on the No Fly List as soon as possible.” This landmark case may lead to a future in which additional Americans are able to challenge the merits of their inclusion on the no-fly list.

Report: DHS Spends Millions and Still Fails Pandemic Audit

Given the current outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa, tensions are high, and Americans are questioning whether or not the virus will spread to the United States.

Following a recent audit, the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a federal report, which showed that if a potential pandemic were to occur, the United States would be “ill-prepared.”

The report stated that, in 2006, Congress “appropriated $47 million in supplemental funding to DHS for necessary expenses to plan, train, and prepare for a potential pandemic.”

The DHS reported that it spent this funding on “personal protective equipment, pandemic research, exercises, and medical counter measures.

The audit found that the DHS “did not adequately conduct a needs assessment prior to purchasing pandemic preparedness supplies,” and that it “did not effectively manage its stockpile of pandemic personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures.”

The report showed that the DHS has an inventory of “approximately 16 million surgical masks without demonstrating a need for that quantity,” and that it has a stockpile with 4,184 bottles of hand sanitizer that were expired, “some by up to 4 years.”

The report also revealed that, “81 percent of antiviral drugs acquired by the DHS Office of Health Affairs Component will expire by the end of 2015,” and that the stock of equipment for a possible pandemic includes 200,000 respirators that are past the five-year manufacturer’s guaranteed usability.

DHS and its components do not know where its personal protective equipment is located, how much it has, and the usability of the stockpiles that exist,” the report said.

In a statement from Inspector General John Roth, he said, “DHS is responsible for ensuring it is adequately prepared to continue critical operations in the event of a pandemic.”

We will work with them to see that this vital program is strengthened,” Roth said.

Homeland Security Pours Billions into Militarizing Police with “Little Oversight”

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed under the Bush Administration in 2002, as a response to 9/11. In 2014, the DHS has 240,000 employees, and among other things, it is responsible for giving police departments grants for military equipment.

Grants given to local police departments from the DHS have received a great deal of scrutiny recently, after protests in Ferguson, Missouri were met with militarized local law enforcement.

The Executive Director for the Freedom of the Press Foundation, and a columnist for The Guardian, Trevor Timm, referred to the DHS as the “primary arms dealer for out-of-control local cops in Ferguson and beyond,” and criticized the fact that the DHS was “handing out tens of billions of dollars in grants for military equipment in the last decade with little to no oversight and even less training on how use it.”

From an oversight perspective, DHS grant programs are pretty much a mess,” an anonymous congressional aide told The Guardian. “They don’t know what’s been bought with the money, how that equipment has been used, or whether it’s made anyone measurably any safer.”

An audit from 2012 found that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is in charge of overseeing the grant program, “exists with little oversight.”

FEMA did not have a system in place to determine the extent that Homeland Security Grant Program funds enhanced the states’ capabilities to prevent, deter, respond to and recover from terrorist attacks, major disasters and other emergencies before awarding more funds to the states,” the audit said.

Timm pointed out that although the DHS doesn’t have missiles like the ones used in Pakistan and Yemen, it does have its own “fleet of Predator drones roaming the US border and far beyond, which it has loaned out to police over 500 times for myriad unknown reasons.”

Homeland Security is also handing out millions of dollars to local police to ‘accelerate and facilitate the adoption’ of smaller drones that police can fly themselves,” wrote Timm. “Cops claim they want these ‘middleman’ drones for ’emergencies,’ but in places like California’s Alameda county, documents show they’ll end up using them for ‘crowd control’ and ‘intelligence gathering.'”

The criticism of Homeland Security’s actions was so great, that according to the New York Times, the White House announced that they would conduct a review regarding “whether the government should continue providing such equipment and, if so, whether local authorities have sufficient training to use it appropriately.”

Exclusive: Leader of Scout Troop Confronted by Armed Border Patrol Speaks Out

In an exclusive interview with Benswann.com,  Jim Fox, the scout leader of the Mid-Iowa Boy Scout Troop 111, explained what happened earlier this month at a checkpoint along the Alaska – Canada border.

At the check point, one of the boys took a picture of the border agent and “threw the agent into a frenzy.” According to Fox, the agent immediately confiscated the camera, told the boy that he could be subjected to 10 years of prison or a $10,000 fine. The boys and driver were escorted inside the border patrol station.

“The border agent tried to bait me. He wanted to get a reaction out of me and I did not give it to him,” said Fox. The border agent didn’t want Fox to follow him while he searched the van because Fox might turn over “search techniques to the undesirables.”

One of the agents asked to see one of the bags of the scouts. One scout knew where the bag was and tried to get the bag to assist the agent. That’s when Fox said an agent had a loaded pistol pointed at the boy.

Fox said that the boy thought the agent was going to shoot him and got back into the van. “They were sitting there scared to death,” said Fox.

“And for our government to take these young men and illegally search them and illegally seize and pull a weapon on these kids — something is wrong.”


Benswann.com’s Joshua Cook asked Fox, “Did you feel at that moment that you still lived in America?”

“No,” said Fox. “I didn’t and neither did the boys.”

Fox said that they have experienced this type of intimidation before with the TSA in Orlando, FL. In the Orlando one of the eagle scouts accidentally dropped his boots after going through a full search.

One of the officers said, “..if that boy doesn’t calm down I will arrest him and remove him from this airport.” Fox asked the officer, “what did the boy do?”

“He dropped his boots in a threatening manner, said the officer.”

The border patrol agent asked Fox, “I suppose you’re wondering why we are doing this?” While pointing at the teenage boy the agent told Fox, “It’s our job to protect this border, It’s our job to keep terrorists from crossing the border.”

Senator Chuck Grassley told Fox News, “It’s outrageous that a border patrol agent would point a gun at a boy scout just for taking a picture,” he told the television station. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

Cook asked Fox if he thought his Fourth Amendment was violated?

“Totally,” answered Fox.

Fox had a meeting scheduled with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) this week to discuss the event, but will not attend without a constitutional attorney from the Rutherford Institute. According to Fox’s Facebook page, The Rutherford Institute offered to represent him.

Cook asked, “Is there any video footage of this event?” According to Fox, the DHS will not send a copy of the video it to him, media organizations or Sen. Grassley.

Fox told Cook that the Rutherford Institute will submit a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to access the video. DHS claims there is no audio of the event.

Cook asked Fox, “In light of the open borders and drug cartels going back and forth at the southern border freely, does it anger you at all that the focus of border security is on patriotic groups like the Boy Scouts?

 “It’s frustrating,” said Fox. “It’s frustrating that we give these thugs that kind of power.”

“And for our government to take these young men and illegally search them and illegally seize and pull a weapon on these kids — something is wrong,” said Fox.

“But they’re questioning whether or not they can go back into their own country…something’s not right!”


UPDATE: Fox has made his first national television appearance on the Rick Amato Show on the One American News Network. Below, you can see the Amato interview.

Exclusive: Business Owner Sues The NSA & DHS and WINS!

A small business owner and T-shirt maker who had his products forced off of internet marketplaces by the NSA has WON his fight against the agency.

Dan McCall is the owner of Liberty Maniacs which is a T-shirt company based out of Minnesota. We were the very first to tell you about McCall and his fight with the NSA last August when we featured him during one of our Truth in Media episodes.

You can watch the episode here to get you up to speed.

This week a major victory for McCall and all those who believe in rule of law.

The NSA has backed off its claim that McCall’s T-shirt “The NSA” had infringed on their intellectual property rights. As Ben showed you, the NSA’s claim violated the law because what McCall had done with his shirt was protected speech under the guidelines of being a “parody”. Shortly after the NSA began getting McCall’s shirts pulled from online marketplaces like Zazzle.com, DHS or the Department of Homeland Security began doing the same thing claiming that T-shirts that mocked their agency were also infringing on intellectual property.

In the video below, Ben Swann talks with DanMcCall via Skype.

“When we finally filed, I was like, ‘Wow, this is real now’, you know?” says McCall. “I’m actually suing the DHS and the NSA and they only have an army of lawyers and everything else.”

McCall’s lawsuit appears to have been well worth it. McCall’s lawyer recently contacted him saying that both agencies wanted to settle. This is a huge victory for those who believe in Liberty and are taking a stand against federal agencies that are bullying the public. McCall says to be able to force the NSA and DHS to contact online marketplaces and admit that they were wrong to try to force his products off the marketplaces and that McCall does in fact have every right to create his parody shirts.

During the interview with McCall, Swann says “There has never been a time as far as I can tell, any question that you were in the right. There was no question that they were in the wrong. What is important here is, that doesn’t matter anymore in our current system of government. It doesn’t matter if they are right or wrong, it matters if they are able to muscle you into submission and in your case they weren’t able to. I think that’s a victory for a whole lot of people.”

McCall: “I think that’s right. Would any of this have happened if (the story) had not come out and the light had not been shined on this issue? Of course not. It would have been swept under the rug, they would have strong armed. Obviously they felt content to do so until enough stories came out and enough people were mad and we filed the suit and then they said, ‘Ok’, and they backed down.”

Obama’s DHS Activating National License Plate Tracking Database


President Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is quietly activating a national license plate tracking system. It will be shared with law enforcement and allow officials to track citizens’ vehicles “from a variety of sources nationwide.”

The new system, called the “National License Plate Recognition Database,” is outlined in a PDF on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

The system will allow authorities to “to determine where and when the vehicle has traveled” by tracking “vehicle license plate numbers that pass through cameras or are voluntarily entered into the system from a variety of sources.”

Using their smartphones, DHS officials will be able to take photos of any license plate in the country and upload it to the database. They will then receive an instant alert if that plate is on the “hot list” containing “target vehicles.”

The intended purpose of the new system is to catch illegal immigrants and terrorists, but it is likely that the vast majority of targeted individuals will be American citizens. To many who are concerned about the scope and growth of government power, the system is reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984 — especially since in recent years, the DHS has branded “liberty lovers” as possible terrorists.

The “National License Plate Recognition Database,” which will allow the DHS to capture and track license plates around the country, could very well open the floodgates to widespread abuses of power.

Follow Kristin on Facebook and Twitter.