Did you see this recent news item at Forbes? Department Of Homeland Security Compiling Database Of Journalists And ‘Media Influencers’’. Hmmm… That’s interesting. The contract will be for “DHS Media Monitoring Services.” Ah, that sounds suitably mundane. But digging deeper into the original FedBizOpps announcement to read the Statement of Work (SOW), I noticed that it begins with:
1.) Core competencies. Introduce your company’s core competencies and relate those to the specific needs of the attached SOW.
That gave me a laugh. How does one describe a Core Competency in Snooping? Or a Core Competency in Tyranny?
I see that they want to contract with a company that to start has these abilities:
- 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
With all of their handy-dandy parameters and deep archives that never forget, this database tool will be able to constantly monitor individual trade journalist and bloggers. It could certainly watch for their use of certain key words or phrases. And presumably, if they ever used the, ahem, wrong words, then they could be flagged for action. End result: Something much worse than a traditional Ban List or Round-Up List. Instead, the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate will have a database that constantly watches the article topics and phrasing used by hundreds of thousands of journalists. And if any of them ever use the wrong words, then they could effectively self-select their names for a constantly-updated Action List.
The phrase “chilling effect” doesn’t even begin to describe how journalists might someday feel about writing an investigative story about the DHS or any of its 24 subordinate agencies. This planned database tool is a tyrant’s dream come true!
The Big Selfie
Not surprisingly, as part of the SOW, the DHS also wants to track whether they themselves are mentioned in any news stories or blog posts. That is included in one of the SOW specifications:
“Services shall enable [the DHS National Protection and Programs Directorate] 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…” [Emphasis added]
Gee, that strikes me as an agency-level equivalent of a teenager who types in a Google search on her own name once a day.
I’m Not The First
After I started writing this article, I did a web search and quickly found that I’m not the only blogger out there who suspects that this new database has a lot more in common with building a round-up lists and web site-blocking bad boy lists than it does with just creating a super version of CNN Headline News. The trendy Steemit social media site had an article by anarchist blogger “John Vibes”, who warned:
“According to a 2017 report by the independent research group Freedom House, press freedom in the United States and across the world is at its lowest point in 13 years. The report found that there were ‘unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies and new moves by authoritarian states to control the media, including beyond their borders.’ This is an ominous sign of things come for the media, especially those who question authority.”
And videoblogger Lisa Cabrera warns about the plan:
“This government will violate you when they are good and ready. And they don’t care about laws, they don’t cares about [the] Constitution, they don’t care if they gotta jail you illegally. They will do whatever they have to do to silence you. That is what this is all about: Silencing people…”
I also found an essay at Market-Ticker blog, by Karl Denninger. In it, he noted the significance of the fact that the deliverable database access had to be made to the DHS within five days of the contract award:
“Online within 5 business days of handing out the contract which means it already has been built and is operating right now, but you haven’t been told one thing about this, there has been no public debate or disclosure, and someone, or a bunch of someones, already have it running and vacuuming up the data — including the mobile component complete with push notifications.
In other words the option to stop this through peaceful political activity has already expired, the weapon has already been built, tested and is in use right now, almost-certainly by multiple parties without any disclosure or political debate. The scope of work laid forth constitutes tens if not hundreds of man-years of effort at minimum; it is not a trivial undertaking.
Someone, or more-likely a bunch of someones, has expended millions if not tens of millions of dollars, or even more, building this weapon and they have done so in complete secrecy with foreknowledge that this “bid” would then be solicited for their work and thus they would be able to be paid for same. It is flat-out impossible to conclude otherwise given the contents of the request and deliverable deadlines.
It is 100% certain that all of the existing “social media” platforms know about this and have already executed whatever “agreements” were necessary with the government for this weapon to be built, tested and be able to operate.
Every single one of those firms and every employee therein with knowledge of this, which have to number in the hundreds if not thousands, have remained silent during its development. What leverage (threats) was used to keep all of said people quiet?
Congratulations folks; it’s time to give up any pretense that any sort of truly independent media will be allowed to exist in America, ever again.”
Karl Denninger appended his essay this weighty statement, in bold type:
“The 1st Amendment is dead because we, all of us in America, refused for decades to insist on enforcement of the clear and unequivocal words in the 2nd Amendment. We allowed ‘shall not be infringed’ to be not only ignored but spat upon and burnt to ash by every single member of both major political parties.”
Within hours after this criticism started popping up, DHS Press Secretary Tyler Q. Houlton chided in a Facebook post:
“Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”
To me, the message is clear: “Silence, you uppity peons!”
“Paging Mr. Google…”
Clearly, what the DHS announcement is looking for is a company a lot like Google. And in fact Google is perhaps the only company with the advanced datamining ability to meet all of the contract parameters and also able to meet the short fuse deadline. Well, perhaps Facebook or Oracle could handle it. I’ll even go so far as to conjecture that the Statement of Work (SOW) was written around Google’e current capabilities.
Parenthetically, I should mention that back when I worked for defense contracting firms (Dalmo-Victor, Litton, Oracle, and SNC), I learned of a common technique for making “slam dunk” contract awards. A program manager (PM) simply writes a SOW specification that perfectly describes what the company he already has in mind can offer. No others need apply.
Moving Up The List
I suppose that merely reporting this story has earned me a higher ranking on the DHS Bad Boy List. So be it. Oh, to get even higher up on the list, let me close with these three warnings: 1.) The only “Security” that the Department of Homeland Security has in mind is securing the interests and hides of an Elite Few against the potential torches and pitchforks of the Many. 2.) If you think FEMA was a threat to your freedom, then just wait until you see what the DHS has planned. And, 3.) “The Google” is Evil. Enough said. – JWR