Department of Homeland Security officials now have the ability to obtain information about protesters threatening to damage public memorials or statues even if they aren’t located on federal government property, The Washington Post reports.
According to a report obtained by the newspaper, the new guidance expands the department’s authority beyond its typical scope, which permits DHS officials to protect landmarks from terrorist attacks.
The expanded power comes as President Donald Trump sent federal officials to Portland and threatened to dispatch them to other cities experiencing protests.
The new authorization is called a “job aid” for DHS staff and comes out of an executive order Trump signed last month to protect monuments and statues from being vandalized or destroyed.
Amid calls for racial justice, protesters have targeted statues of Confederate generals, Christopher Columbus and other historical figures by toppling them, removing them or defacing them.
DHS officials will not be able to monitor social media posts and other public information posted by people or groups that may “damage or destroy any public monument, memorial, or statue.”
Personnel were told in order to monitor someone, they must have a valid reason why that person poses a threat. They can’t rely on “‘hunches’ and intuitions, which are insufficient,” according to the report.
Any information the department collects on a person must be discarded after 180 days if it doesn’t further another appropriate government mission. Any intel collected can be shared with other groups including the federal government, state and local organizations and private-sector groups engaged in law enforcement, counterterrorism and homeland security operations, the document states.
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