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Report: DHS Running a Secret Program Gathering Domestic Intelligence

Report: DHS Running a Secret Program Gathering Domestic Intelligence

No one wants to speak out because they “fear punishment if they speak out about mismanagement and abuses.”

The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) has run a program gathering domestic intelligence for years.

Politico happened upon the program while looking through documents.

The Overt Human Intelligence Collection Program (OHICP) allows officials to ask “just about anyone” in America for an interview, including those “in immigrant detention centers, local jails, and federal prison.”

DHS justified the questioning because officials have to tell people “their participation is voluntary.” The employees must identify as those in the DHS.

The officials can go directly to those in prison without their lawyers. Not good:

Potential interview subjects in these situations face unique legal risks and opportunities when dealing with government officials. And there’s a standard practice for law enforcement officials when they want to talk to someone awaiting trial about topics related to their legal situations: These officials first ask for permission from their lawyers. In fact, legal ethics rules require that lawyers seeking to communicate with people who have lawyers talk to those people’s counsel, rather than the people themselves.

Adding another wrinkle to the I&A interviews with jailed people: The instruction document indicates that a law enforcement officer must be present when these interviews take place. It’s unclear what, if anything, keeps those officers from sharing what they overhear with prosecutors or investigators, or using it themselves — especially if interviewees’ lawyers aren’t aware that the conversations are happening and, therefore, can’t warn their clients of potential risks.

The office paused the part with inmates last year due to concerns. Officials insisted they only used the questioning “to gather information about threats to the U.S., including transnational drug trafficking and organized crime.”

No one wants to speak out because they “fear punishment if they speak out about mismanagement and abuses”:

One unnamed employee — quoted in an April 2021 document — said leadership of I&A’s Office of Regional Intelligence “is ‘shady’ and ‘runs like a corrupt government.’” Another document said some employees worried so much about the legality of their activities that they wanted their employer to cover legal liability insurance.

Carrie Bachner, formerly the career senior legislative adviser to the DHS under secretary for intelligence, said the fact that the agency is directly questioning Americans as part of a domestic-intelligence program is deeply concerning, given the history of scandals related to past domestic-intelligence programs by the FBI.

Bachner, who served as a DHS liaison with Capitol Hill from 2006 to 2010, said she told members of Congress “adamantly” — over and over and over again — that I&A didn’t collect intelligence in the U.S.

“I don’t know any counsel in their right mind that would sign off on that, and any member of Congress that would say, ‘That’s OK,’” said Bachner, who currently runs a consulting firm. “If these people are out there interviewing folks that still have constitutional privileges, without their lawyer present, that’s immoral.”

People are scared to say anything is one of the “key” themes in the internal documents. Many employees think DHS is breaking the law.

Politico came across a slide deck called “I&A Management Analysis & Assistance Program Survey Findings for FOD”:

FOD refers to I&A’s Field Operations Division — now called the Office of Regional Intelligence — which is the largest part of the office, with personnel working around the country. Those officials work with state, local and private sector partners; collect intelligence; and analyze intelligence. When the U.S. faces a domestic crisis related to national security or public safety, people in this section are expected to be the first in I&A to know about it and then to relay what they learn to the office’s leadership. Their focuses include domestic terror attacks, cyber attacks, border security issues, and natural disasters, along with a host of other threats and challenges.

The survey described in the slide deck was conducted in April 2021. A person familiar with the survey said it asked respondents about events of 2020. Its findings were based on 126 responses. Half of the respondents said they’d alerted managers of their concerns that their work involved activity that was inappropriate or illegal. The slide deck seems to try to put a positive spin on this.

“There is an opportunity to work with employees to address concerns they have about the appropriateness or lawfulness of a work activity,” it reads.

“Half of the respondents have voiced to management a concern about this, many of whom feel their concern was not appropriately addressed.”

Title 50, which explains national security laws, governs DHS. That means the agency has to follow “strict rules related to intelligence activity in the U.S. or targeting U.S. citizens.” Some employees claimed “they get asked to take steps that are inappropriate for a Title 50 agency:

On Nov. 12, 2020, barely a week after Election Day, Robin Taylor, then the director of I&A’s Field Operations Division, emailed to multiple officials a summary of 12 listening sessions that an internal employee watchdog had held with division employees.

Taylor’s email included a few lines referencing employees’ concerns about the scope and appropriateness of their work.

“Many taskings seem to be law enforcement matters and not for an intelligence organization,” read one portion, referring to assignments. “How is any of this related to our Title 50 authorities? Even if we are technically allowed to do this, should we? What was the intent of Congress when they created us? ‘Departmental Support’ seems like a loophole that we exploit to conduct questionable activities.”

Later in that document came a line that was even more bleak: “Showing where we provide value is very challenging.”

The program is still causing problems in the Biden administration.

Employees vent about the program on the Ombudsman, a sounding board for employee concerns. An employee in an October 2021 session said, “I&A and FOD leadership don’t seem to understand how Title 50 applies to FOD, which causes conflicts.”

Others hate that individuals seem to have to determine “their legal boundaries” and the “negative consequences” fall on them.


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2smartforlibs | March 8, 2023 at 1:05 pm

You can thank the globalists we have in power for that. Bush signed it and BUYden co-authored it. No golden calves here.

DHS has been very helpful to Xi Jinpeng!

We are morphing into East Germany, and it’s happened incredibly fast. Thank Obama for starting to roll this snowball down the mountain.

    The Gentle Grizzly in reply to oldschooltwentysix. | March 8, 2023 at 1:11 pm

    I believe it has been coming far longer than that.

    Nope. Bush 41, but Bush 43 did his part with the Patriot Act atrocity. THEN Obama. He didn’t start it, but he accelerated its use against American citizens.

      The Gentle Grizzly in reply to Fuzzy Slippers. | March 8, 2023 at 1:58 pm

      And, a whole bunch of Republicans voted Yay on that atrocity,

      Bush did not weaponize the government even close to what Obama did. Bush intended the Patriot Act to be used legitimately, even if it spriralled out of control under Obama, who used it and other parts of the government against pretend domestic terrorists, Not to mention the other divisive things Obama did, culminating in the Jan 6, 2017 sedition session in the Oval Office.

      Yeah, it goes to the Patriot Act. But the abuser is crystal clear.

        If I build a bomb I don’t use then give it to someone who then places it in a building that is destroyed by that bomb I have responsibility for it yes?

        The Bush administration built up the national security state like nobody ever had before and it was the Bush legacy that was employed by the Democrats ever since.

        His motivation was most likely fear mongering for political success but ultimately the weapons he forged are what the Democrats have used ever since.

          No. Your theory does not necessarily hold because it depends on who and how the bomb is deployed.

          If someone lends you their car and you run someone down, are they strictly liable?

          Blaming Bush for Obama’s clear weaponization of the government, not to mention the spewing of division in other ways, is odd.

          SDN in reply to Danny. | March 9, 2023 at 9:20 am

          Danny, you have no more responsibility than a gun store owner who sold a gun to someone who passed the background check and then shoots up a school. Obama passed the “background check” we call an election.

        BierceAmbrose in reply to oldschooltwentysix. | March 8, 2023 at 3:11 pm

        “Bush intended the Patriot Act ,,,”

        Maybe, but that’s not how it turned out. Worse, years in and around govt, Shrub hadda know how it would go. Either didn’t care or though it worth it.

        Meanwhile, who wants to complain about the secret police? They might sic the secret police on you.

          Yes, but why did it not turn out that way? Hindsight is great for all of us. The point is, Obama and Co. did not have to abuse the power as they chose to do.

          CommoChief in reply to BierceAmbrose. | March 8, 2023 at 4:58 pm

          Govt agencies and the bureaucrats who staff them Always use the extent of their power. The solution is to stop granting such powers b/c they will be abused. That’s what every bureaucracy does throughout history.

          Handing a firearm to an irresponsible person and then complaining that this irresponsible person shouldn’t have abused the power of that firearm seems like an argument to close the barn after the horses escape.

        healthguyfsu in reply to oldschooltwentysix. | March 8, 2023 at 5:16 pm

        Odd flex for you to back the Bush dynasty. Ask your buddy Trump what he thinks of them.

        Regardless, you are wrong because the ramifications were specifically warned against by his own party. In the very best light, it’s negligence, and I don’t buy that naivete played a role in this decision. Besides, many of these unconstitutional surveillance programs started under W, not Obama.

        henrybowman in reply to oldschooltwentysix. | March 8, 2023 at 5:48 pm

        “Bush intended the Patriot Act to be used legitimately”
        Oh, shoot me now, willya?
        Any power the government CAN abuse, the government WILL abuse.

        You do not examine legislation in light of the benefits it will convey if properly administered, but in light of the wrongs it would do and the harms it would cause if improperly administered.

          It’s easy to second guess. The Patriot Act was NEVER intended to be used domestically. Which was the point. Twisting what was said is uncool, but increasingly the norm.

          CommoChief in reply to henrybowman. | March 8, 2023 at 6:26 pm

          Bro, lots of us on the populist right were pushing back in real time about the Patriot Act and its vast potential for abuse. We have continued to do so b/c there isn’t an example of a power being granted to the bureaucracy that isn’t eventually abused.

          Your ‘second guessing’ argument might be valid for the Johnny come lately who haven’t been paying attention in the two + decades since the Patriot Act was passed.

          Bottom line is if you don’t want a power to be abused then don’t grant it to govt. The bureaucracy can’t help themselves, its in the nature of these organizations to expand their mission, seek additional funding and push for more authority. If you are just now figuring this out then ….bless your heart.

          It IS second guessing, however. And the argument, actually, was that Obama abused his power, despite the fact that some want to pretend that Bush did the same or worse.

          If people want to pretend that, fine, but it’s more accurate that Obama turned loose the government on his domestic enemies, and also played the race and religious cards against them.

          Funny, no one contradicted the actual point, but prefer to look back a couple of decades as if it was the same environment and the same abuses were occurring.

          CommoChief in reply to henrybowman. | March 8, 2023 at 7:25 pm


          If you believe that the Federal agencies under the Bush admin in the wake of the passage of the Patriot Act didn’t get up to all sorts of shenanigans you are dreaming. I can assure you there were plenty of anti liberty actions undertaken; spend an hour on an internet search and you will discover all sorts of publicly available data.

          It doesn’t matter if you think Bush did bad things for good reasons and Obama did bad things for bad reasons. Both did bad things b/c that’s what bureaucracies do, they seldom resist the temptation to abuse their power. Sooner or later they always seek to extend that power beyond their remit.

          It is dangerous to grant power to govt. If you refuse to accept that fact you are going to be in for one hell of a shock someday when your happy fantasy is shattered.

        The problem with your second defense of Bush from being responsible for the weaponization of the government is that a car is a legitimate tool with legitimate uses while a bomb is not (I picked a bomb as a point of comparison, and not a gun or a car for a reason).

        The expansion of the national security state under Bush was something that had as it’s only potential outcome abuse of power.

        The reason to not let Bush off isn’t just finger pointing.

        If we don’t learn anything from the past we will continue being the “MUH UNIFORM AND BIG BADGE” party. As Republicans we didn’t just fall for Bush and his flag officers demand for an expanded national security state we STILL fall for that.

        Total and absolute trust in everything Mark Milley and other flag officers have to say has dropped to ONLY 75%.

        Donald J Trump made a major part of his campaign about how he ratcheted up military spending to ludicrous borderline axis between the wars levels.

        Yes we need to go over how much of a mistake trusting everyone with a badge or rank and giving up our ancestral liberties was, and we need to stop letting ourselves off the hook for that. We need to end our religious trust for ranks.

The question is will we still be impressed by big uniforms and lots of stars to the point of giving blank checks in terms of both money and autonomy to these people?

BierceAmbrose | March 8, 2023 at 3:46 pm

The DHS has an interesting idea of its job — not something I find particularly valuable, nor do I want to pay for it.

When did citizens who live here become foreign operators working a plan of destruction? if they’re not on about a plan, how are they DHS business?

Asking for a friend curious about those organized, uniformed, mainly foreign actors exploding things n breaking stuff outside Atlanta; presumably “known wolves”

— Their charter is to stop folks who are about to blow stuff up to make a point. (Yeah, not doin so good, still.)

— The point is to hold safe, peaceful space where it would not be if the operatives had their way. (The heat map is supposed to be cold — knowing and it happened anyway is worse.)

— Their customers are citizens who live here, paying janitors to keep the mess at bay so folks can eat their sammiches in peace.

E Howard Hunt | March 8, 2023 at 4:43 pm

No one is singular. A site that obsessively mocks abuse of pronouns should respect this.

Sad they lost one of their best field agents: Epstein.

retiredcantbefired | March 8, 2023 at 6:38 pm

Anyone who claims the Dubya administration was well-intentioned ought to consider that Dick Cheney was a major proponent of treating public health as a national security matter. Look how that’s worked out.

This Bachner person, an ex-DHSer, is worried about morality, says she doesn’t know anyone in congress who’d go along with it (!), and now runs a Beltway consulting firm? What a dimwit. She could pose as this month’s Ms Deep State on the DHS calendar.

DHS’s agents have obviously not interviewed Alejandro Mayorkis, their own boss; the “Big Guy,” President Biden, probable head of one of the more well known crime families in the world; “Cackles” Harris, Vice President of the United States one of whose primary assignments is responsibility for our fentanyl leaking borders, or . . . Why go on? Our derelict government has become one of the world’s biggest enablers of criminal activities in the world.