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DHS Using 12 Overlapping Programs to Monitor Americans: Sen. Rand Paul

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) pointed to at least 12 programs used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to track what Americans say online as evidence the agency has departed from its original mission.

Paul’s comments came during a hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which heard testimony from DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on April 18 on his department’s budget requests.

The senator asserted that DHS has been using the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to perpetrate “abusive practices” tracking Americans’ online movements, saying even the American Civil Liberties Union concluded that it was time to reconsider the movements of DHS.

Paul also pointed out that during the pandemic, DHS should have been monitoring and investigating the presence of biological research labs in the United States that could potentially lead to the release of other dangerous viruses, considering the fact that several U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that COVID-19 originated in a biolab.

“Instead of focusing on real threats like this, DHS was internally strategizing on how it can expand social media censorship of Americans using third-party nonprofits as … a clearinghouse for information to avoid the appearance of government propaganda,” Paul said.

“A report published last month by the Brennan Center for Justice found at least 12 overlapping DHS programs for tracking what Americans are saying online,” Paul went on in his address to Mayorkas. “It found that the department’s programs have veered from its original counterterrorism mission, into tracking social and political movements and monitoring First Amendment-protected activity of American citizens. This is a serious abuse of power.”

Censorship of Americans

In addition to citing reports by other groups, Paul mentioned his own and others’ comments about COVID-19 masks, vaccinations, and related issues that were censored through the work of the government partnering with social media.

“In 2021, DHS even put out a video encouraging children to report their own family members’ Facebook for disinformation if they challenge the U.S. government narratives on COVID-19,” Paul said incredulously.

According to the lawmaker, statements classified as “opinion” during the pandemic have, in many cases, been verified by scientists, and the voicing of unverified opinions is part of what should be the right of every American. Paul asserted that the U.S. government was “the most significant source of disinformation in the pandemic, with the most influence and greatest impact on people’s lives.”

Paul went on to say that the report found “over brought mandates, flimsy safeguards, and fragmented oversight,” which has allowed for “overreach and abuses to proliferate across DHS intelligence programs.”

The Kentucky Republican ended his opening comments to Mayorkas by saying “this is the kind of abuse of power that should terrify all of us, regardless of which side of the aisle you’re on.”

“Congress cannot continue to provide more funding and responsibility to an agency that so clearly misunderstands its statutory authorities and purpose,” Paul said.

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