(NaturalNews) It is been said that in terms of the federal government's electronic spying capabilities, you can run but you can't hide. While that may be true, there are certainly steps you can take to significantly reduce your visibility, so to speak, and one of those ways is to ensure you don't use certain key terms and words in your electronic communications.
More than a year ago, following a Freedom of Information Act request, the federal government, via the Department of Homeland Security, was forced to release a list of trigger terms that causes any number of federal agencies to put you under extra scrutiny. Per Britain's Daily Mail, May 26, 2012:
The Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.
The intriguing the list includes obvious choices such as 'attack', 'Al Qaeda', 'terrorism' and 'dirty bomb' alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like 'pork', 'cloud', 'team' and 'Mexico'.
List of words 'broad, ambiguous'
The list helps shed a little needed light on how government analysts like NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are instructed on how to troll the Internet in search of threats, both foreign and domestic.
According to the Mail the words are contained in DHS' 2011 "Analyst's Desktop Binder," which is used by employees at the department's National Operations Center. There, workers are instructed to identify "media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities," the binder notes (you know, like this story, most likely).
Department heads had to release the binder in the wake of a House hearing regarding documents that have been obtained per a FOIA lawsuit, "which revealed how analysts monitor social networks and media organizations for comments that 'reflect adversely' on the government," the paper reported.
Naturally DHS feigned innocence, insisting that the practice of targeting keywords within electronic communications is not policing the Web, per se, but rather only as a means of learning about potential threats.
Besides terrorism, analysts are instructed to look for any indicators of natural disasters in the making, threats to public health and serious major crimes, like mass shootings, major drug arrests and busts of illegal immigrants.
Once obtained, the list was posted online by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (see it here by scrolling to the bottom of the page), a group that advocates for increased privacy protections in the digital age. EFF filed a FOIA request before resorting to its lawsuit in order to force DHS to release the list.
In a follow-up letter to the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, EPIC said the words used by DHS were overly "broad, vague and ambiguous."
The group noted that the list includes "vast amounts of First Amendment protected speech that is entirely unrelated to the Department of Homeland Security mission to protect the public against terrorism and disasters."
'We're not actually doing what the manual says we are'
Following disclosure of the existence of the manual, a senior DHS official told The Huffington Post that the manual is just "a starting point, not the endgame" in establishing situational awareness of both natural and man-made threats to the American homeland. The official further denied that the federal government was trying to monitor signs of dissent - a claim which is bogus on its face, given that the manual actually instructs analysts to do that very thing.
"'To ensure clarity, as part of ... routine compliance review, DHS will review the language contained in all materials to clearly and accurately convey the parameters and intention of the program," DHS spokesman Matthew Chandler told HuffPo.
According to EPIC, "the records reveal that the DHS is paying General Dynamics to monitor the news," the group said on its website. "The DHS instructed the social media monitoring company to generate 'reports on DHS, Components, and other Federal Agencies: Positive and negative reports on FEMA, CIA, CBP, ICE, etc. as well as organizations outside the DHS.'"