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The U.S. Department of Commerce Ran ‘Rogue’ Police Agency, Spied on Americans

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) arrived at the United States Capitol on February 11, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) arrived at the United States Capitol on February 11, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Photo: Chip Somodevilla (Getty Images)

A security unit tasked with assessing threats against the U.S. Department of Commerce has used counterintelligence tools to gather information about U.S. citizens and foreign visitors to the United States, unauthorized surveillance that included monitoring American Twitter accounts for critical government comments, according to a former Republican in the US Senate.

Prior to a report to be released to detail allegations of “improper activities dating back to the mid-2000s” from the Department of Commerce’s Threat Investigation and Management Service (ITMS), Senator Roger Wicker said Monday that government whistleblowers had reported a variety of abuses, including reprisals against Department employees.

Vimine, the Republican ranked on the U.S. Senate Committee on Trade, Science and Transportation, published an “information sheet” regarding his ITMS investigation hours after the Washington Post first reported on its existence.

“It is my duty to ensure that we hold agencies accountable, especially when whistleblowers present information that suggests chronic abuses of power,” Wicker said. “Congress has a definite role in oversight, and I intend to ensure that federal agencies operate within appropriate limits.”

ITMS operations were suspended until May 14, Wicker said. A Commerce Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Fact sheet” by Vimeri states that whistleblowers reported, among other abuses, that racial profiling “served as a pretext” for so-called national security investigations, with Asian American employees of the department being prominently targeted.

Similarly, the Post reported Monday that ITMS officials searched Commerce servers for particular Chinese words, resulting in Asian-American staff on what the paper’s sources described as “benign correspondence. “.

The Post identified the head of the unit as George D. Lee, 48, a former federal police officer, saying he did not respond to several requests for comment. Lee said he has overseen a drastic expansion of the unit’s mission.

The Post also said that as of April 2020, ITMS has launched probes into the authors of “dozens of social messages” demanding the integrity of the U.S. Census, which is controlled by the Department of Commerce. , framing the probes in correspondence with the FBI as a legitimate effort to uncover organized disinformation campaigns.

“The extent of the investigative authority that the ITMS has deployed over time without any significant oversight is alarming,” says Wicker’s “fact sheet”. “The complainants allege that this construction allowed the opening of cases for purposes of intimidation and revenge, creating the allusion that an individual was under investigation when, in fact, there was no threat to Department staff or property. “

According to Vimine, the investigation into the activities of the ITMS is ongoing and a full report of the findings will be published in the coming months.

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