Legislation moving through Congress would put a more-public face on the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s existing committee charged with harnessing social media in the wake of public emergencies, including terrorist attacks.
Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), chairwoman of the Homeland Security Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications Subcommittee, cosponsored the Social Media Working Group Act of 2014 (H.R. 4263) with Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.). The House passed the measure July 8.
Both Brooks and Payne noted in speeches on the House floor that they had seen public social media use ameliorate the impact of natural disasters in their states, and urged DHS to put these tools to use.
A DHS spokesman pointed out that the department has been using social media on many fronts to supplement its disaster recovery efforts. He said, however, that the amendment would open those efforts even further by tapping into lessons on how the private sector uses social media in emergency situations.
DHS established its Virtual Social Media Working Group (VSWG) in late 2010 to tap the social media skills that local first responders had developed in emergency response situations. That group, which DHS said is made up of “a cross-section of subject matter experts from local, tribal, state, territorial, and federal responders from across the United States,” remains the agency’s go-to social media resource on how to leverage services like Twitter in mass emergency response.
The bill, a subcommittee spokesman said, authorizes the VSMWG to add private-sector representation to the panel. The group would meet twice yearly, according to the legislation, and submit a yearly report to Congress on emerging and current social media trends, as well as best practices.
“The bill proposes to expand the work that S&T has already been doing with emergency managers,” a DHS spokesman said. “This expansion could potentially provide insight into how the private sector uses social media in relation to emergency response and recovery.”
As the 2014 hurricane season began, the VSMWG released a report that it said addressed various challenges associated with the use of social media for situational awareness and integration of social media within the operational environment, and identified areas requiring further consideration, research, and development.
The public safety community, said the report, leverages various data sources – including land mobile radio, maps, computer-aided dispatch, crisis management systems, traffic cameras, geographic information systems, and windshield assessments – to achieve and maintain situational awareness throughout all phases of the disaster.
By Scott W. Winchell, Stand Up Americans
Its official; the Department of Homeland Security did award the HS HODC-10-00080 contract to General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems Division as the Contracting Officer’s Technical Representative (COTR) for DHS. What does that mean?
It means that the DHS project – Media Monitoring Capability Mission – is actually underway as we all suspected. What the project should be called is the “Cover our asses, identify our enemies, and spin baby, spin, capability mission.”
Its similar to the system for data collection that the Obama 2012 Campaign is doing on Facebook now:
Barack Obama‘s re-election team are building a vast digital data operation that for the first time combines a unified database on millions of Americans with the power of Facebook to target individual voters to a degree never achieved before…
For the past nine months a crack team of some of America’s top data wonks has occupied an entire floor of the Prudential building in Chicago devising a digital campaign from the bottom up. The team draws much of its style and inspiration from the corporate sector, with its driving ambition to create a vote-garnering machine that is smooth, unobtrusive and ruthlessly efficient. (Read the rest here.)
MMCM Contract Documents – On December 15, 2010, the contract was awarded. Two links below show documents related to the project:
What the MMC Mission purports to do:
First – to continually update existing National Situation Summaries (NSS) and International Situation Summaries (ISS) with the most recent, relevant, and actionable open source media information.
Second – to constantly monitor all available open source information with the goal of expeditiously alerting the NOC Watch Team and other key Department personnel of emergent situations.
Third – to receive, process, and distribute media captured by DHS Situational Awareness Teams (DSAT) or other streaming media available to the NOC such as Northern Command’s (NORTHCOM) Full Motion Video (FMV) and via open sources.
What does it mean to the public?
Ostensibly, reading the actual words printed, it sounds like a great way for DHS to stay abreast of the mountains of information available from open sources that should be known by its staff and management. As public servants, its wise to be more conversant in all aspects of all events to make sure that the proper resources are being allocated, dangers are mitigated, and life-saving efforts can be maximized. Sounds great – our tax dollars going to a good thing; our government being wise and efficient.
Well, enough of that bilge. What it more likely means are one or all of the following scenarios:
Those summaries above need to be looked at in more detail, the following shows what information is actually being studied and monitored and why:
Leverage Operationally Relevant Data
Leveraging news stories, media reports and postings on social media sites concerning HomelandSecurity, Emergency Management, and National Health for operationally relevant data, information, analysis, and imagery is the first mission component. The traditional and social media teams review a story or posting from every direction and interest, utilizing thousands of reporters, sources, still/video cameramen, analysts, bloggers and ordinary individuals on scene. Traditional Media outlets provide unmatched insight into the depth and breadth of the situation, worsening issues, federal preparations, response activities, and critical timelines. At the sametime, Social Media outlets provide instant feedback and alert capabilities to rapidly changing or newly occurring situations. The MMC works to summarize the extensive information from these resources to provide a well rounded operational picture for the Department of Homeland Security.
Support NOC in Identifying Relevant Operational Media
Supporting the NOC by ensuring they have a timely appreciation for evolving Homeland Security news stories and media reports of interest to the public and DHS/other federal agencies involved in preparations and response activities is the second key component. DHS and other federal agencies conducting joint operations may be affected by other evolving situations in that area. These situations may be related; have a cause and effect relationship; or be unrelated but have a detrimental effect. Through coordination with the NOC Duty Director (NDD), Senior Watch Officer (SWO) the MMC works to ensure the NOC Watch Team is aware of such stories and news events and has time to analyze any effect on operations.
Timely reporting of current information is an integral element in maintaining complete operational awareness by Homeland Security Personnel. The MMC understand it is vital that critical information is relayed to key Department decision makers in as expeditious a manner aspossible.
Increase Situational Awareness of the DHS Secretary
Mitigating the likelihood that the Secretary and DHS Executive staffs are unaware of a breaking Homeland Security news story or media report is the third component. The Secretary and executive staff members are subject to press questions regarding domestic and international events and may or may not be informed of the most current media coverage. The MMC understands critical information requirements and monitors news coverage with the perspective of how the breaking story may be related to current and other important ongoing situations and DHS activities. The on-duty MMC analyst alerts DHS personnel and related federal agencies of updated news stories through distributed Items of Interest (see section 3.9.6). Recognizing that local media coverage is potentially sensationalizing an incident, the MMC strives to comprehend the media’s message and identify sensitive situations that must be brought to the attention of the Secretary.
It is clear to many Facebook aficionados that the DHS work has been more than just gleaning information.
There are reliable reports where:
Wake up America, DHS and others may be watching you and gleaning information from you, and as we have seen repeatedly with the current administration, it will or could be used against you. Remember, the Defense Authorization Act of 2012 has reset a lot of the rules on detention for American citizens. The pieces and parts for total control are coming into place.
Denise Simon contributed to this article. She is the Director of Research at SUA.
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