After reports of the Department of Homeland Security surveilling the protests in Portland, Oregon legislators are calling for clarifications regarding these claims, said Business Insider. Allegations include spying on protesters and phone tapping.
In a letter sent on September 25 to the DHS acting head Chad Wolf, a number of Oregon lawmakers including Senators Ron Wyden and Jeffrey Merkley aired “serious concerns” about the report which may violate the United States’ Constitution.
According to the lawmakers, “Congress has enacted strict legal protections which require government agencies to obtain the approval of an independent judge before searching Americans’ devices and surveilling their communications.”
Other signatories of the letter include United States Representatives Earl Blumenauer and Suzanne Bonamici.
This came after a report by Ken Klippenstein from The Nation claimed that President Donald Trump sent federal agents to the protests. As per the report, this is to intercept participants’ phone communications and extract data.
Klippenstein obtained information from an anonymous source who is supposedly current and former Homeland Security officials said NextGov. They alleged DHS, the Justice Department, and possibly other agencies deployed officials to Portland to copy devices’ unique identifiers.
NextGov explained that copying a device’s unique identifiers to another device can help officials intercept communications between protesters and get information from their devices including location trackers and metadata.
The lawmakers added that “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.”
The signatories request clarifications from the DHS. Moreover, they are asking Homeland Security official Brian Murphy to come clean whether he “lied” when “he denied the department had obtained any information from detained protesters’ devices,” as per Business Insider.
NextGov noted that the DHS has not replied as of writing, but the letter requested answers by October 9.
However, Murphy has been removed from his position at the Office of Identity & Access. Moreover, the DHS purchased phone location data from private companies back in February.
The article also remarked that it is possible to use commercially and publicly available data to surveil protesters’ activities.
It is also important to note that an Oregon Public Broadcasting report in July reported that Marshals Special operations Group and Customs and Border Protection officials were sent to Portland to secure federal properties.
Reports showed that these federal officials detained protesters who were nowhere near federal properties. Protesters who were not doing illegal activities were also detained.