Three days ago, there was an AP article about how Homeland Security (I still can’t believe a) we have this department and b) its name is still Homeland Security) is working to ‘figure out’ social media (added emphasis mine):
(Dept of Homeland Security Undersecretary Caryn) Wagner said the Homeland Security department, established after the 9/11 attacks, is not actively monitoring any social networks. But when the department receives information about a potential threat, contractors are then asked to look for certain references within “open source” information, which is available to anyone on the Internet.
Ah, but as is typical in government, the left hand has no idea the right hand exists. Today, the AP reports that the CIA is watching our social media moves:
In an anonymous industrial park in Virginia, in an unassuming brick building, the CIA is following tweets - up to 5 million a day.
At the agency’s Open Source Center, a team known affectionately as the “vengeful librarians” also pores over Facebook, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms - anything overseas that anyone can access and contribute to openly.
The significant difference between the two agencies is their directive. Homeland Security has its eye focused domestically.
Wagner said the department is establishing guidelines on gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes. Wagner says those protocols are being developed under strict laws meant to prevent spying on U.S. citizens and protect privacy, including rules dictating the length of time the information can be stored and differences between domestic and international surveillance.
The CIA on the other hand, is monitoring events around the globe.
From Arabic to Mandarin Chinese, from an angry tweet to a thoughtful blog, the analysts gather the information, often in native tongue. They cross-reference it with the local newspaper or a clandestinely intercepted phone conversation. From there, they build a picture sought by the highest levels at the White House, giving a real-time peek, for example, at the mood of a region after the Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden or perhaps a prediction of which Mideast nation seems ripe for revolt.
Next week, will there be an AP story about how the FBI is using social media? Is this a coordinated Intelligence Community media push?