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Joe Biden’s White House Considering Hiring Private Firms to Track Those Considered Extremists

U.S. President Joe Biden’s White House is considering hiring private firms to help it track the chatter of extremists like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers online, according to a recent report from CNN.

Due to privacy laws, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is restricted in how far it can go in monitoring American citizens. Therefore, sources have told CNN the agency is discussing a plan that would see it partner with external private firms that are not bound by such restrictions.

“Outsourcing some information gathering to outside firms would give DHS the benefit of tactics that it isn’t legally able to do in-house, such as using false personas to gain access to private groups used by suspected extremists, sources say,” CNN reported.

However, DHS denied the claims to the outlet stating it “’is not partnering with private firms to surveil suspected domestic terrorists online’ and ‘it is blatantly false’ to suggest that the department is using outside firms to circumvent its legal limits.”

DHS further stated, “All of our work to address the threat of domestic terrorism is done consistent with the Constitution and other applicable law, and in close coordination with our privacy and civil liberties experts.” 

The department has not denied that it considered partnering with research firms who have more levity in the online space, however. While Congress wants to find ways to avoid another insurrection like the one which took place at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, lawmakers also want to avoid violating Americans’ civil rights.

“There’s a tension between wanting to empower [DHS’s intelligence office] to do this kind of work around domestic terrorism on the one hand and then on the other hand the misuse of its capabilities during the summer of 2020, gives a lot of people on the Hill pause {when it comes to} potentially giving them new authorities, capabilities or resources,” a Senate aide told CNN.

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In the meantime, a DHS official told CNN, it is trying to find a way to keep America safe from domestic terrorism which uses online platforms as breeding grounds for their movements.

“Domestic violent extremists are really adaptive and innovative. We see them not only moving to encrypted platforms, but obviously couching their language so they don’t trigger any kind of red flag on any platforms,” the official said.

The official said they are trying to find a way to hire outside experts and simultaneously maintain Americans’ civil liberties. “We are exploring with our lawyers, civil rights, civil liberties and privacy colleagues, how we can make use of outside expertise,” the official added.

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