The Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) allegedly spied on people protesting its former policy of separating immigrant families.
According to documents the American Immigration Council obtained with a Freedom of Information Act request and shared with The Intercept, the Trump DHS retained the services of Virginia-based LookingGlass Cyber Solutions in order to gather information on approximately 600 protests of the family separation policy in 2018.
LookingGlass focused its efforts on obtaining information related to a national day of action on June 30, 2018, in which activists across the country took to the streets to protest the separation of undocumented children from their parents. The heavily redacted emails suggest that the DHS sought information on where each protest would be, broken down by information in individual event pages posted to Facebook. LookingGlass then provided that information to DHS “fusion centers,” which are offices based in major metropolitan areas in which local, state, and federal agencies share information.
However, one DHS official speaking on background told The Intercept that the information LookingGlass provided was “unsolicited.” Speaking on the record, a DHS official told Intercept reporter Ryan Devereaux that the agency always seeks to “assess threats and analyze trends in activity.”
“In this particular instance, a private sector entity shared unsolicited information it collected through publicly available channels with DHS I&A on protests that were scheduled to take place near Federal facilities,” the official said. “Throughout the summer of 2018, the Department was at a heightened state of security due to ongoing protests outside of Federal facilities and physical threats to DHS employees which did result in a least one arrest.”
While the Trump administration’s Department of Homeland Security insisted the information LookingGlass provided was “unsolicited,” no details are yet available on whether or not LookingGlass voluntarily provided the information to DHS officials without being professionally retained, and if so, how much the agency paid LookingGlass for its services. LookingGlass did not immediately respond to Grit Post’s requests for comment regarding the existence of a contract, how much the firm was paid if indeed DHS professionally retained its services, and/or if the firm provides pro bono services to government agencies.
Even though the so-called “Zero Tolerance” policy of separating undocumented children from their parents officially ended in the summer of 2018, the Trump administration continued separating families between July and November of 2018, in direct violation of a federal court order. The Washington Post reported that at least 118 children were separated from their parents following the official end of the policy.
The firm’s website claims LookingGlass “delivers 360° cybersecurity and intelligence” and “addresses the full spectrum of threats.” No pricing is publicly available either on its website or on its brochure. The company, which boasts more than 300 employees, and claims to protect more than $2 trillion in assets, has also secured more than $100 million in funding, according to the website’s “About Us” section.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.