Oversight Committee Launches Investigation Into Administration’s Surveillance Of Protestors

Jun 9, 2020 Issues: Committee on Oversight and Reform, National Security

Washington, D.C. — Last week, U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, U.S. Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, U.S. Representative Jamie Raskin, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Committee Members U.S. Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) demanding the Trump Administration explain its use of Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) resources to conduct surveillance on Americans engaging in peaceful protests.

“We write with grave concern about the use of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) resources—including drones and armed uniformed officers—to surveil and intimidate peaceful protesters who were exercising their First Amendment rights to protest the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department,” the Members wrote.

CBP has admitted to flying a surveillance drone, commonly known as a “Predator B,” over protests in Minneapolis on May 29, 2020.  The drone reportedly was far outside the bounds of CBP’s jurisdiction.  Federal law authorizes CBP to conduct its missions within a “reasonable distance,” not to exceed more than 100 air miles inland, from an external boundary of the United States.

“This Administration has undermined the First Amendment freedoms of Americans of all races who are rightfully protesting George Floyd’s killing,” the Members wrote.  “The deployment of drones and officers to surveil protests is a gross abuse of authority and is particularly chilling when used against Americans who are protesting law enforcement brutality.”

DHS has also deployed armed uniformed officers to police protests in cities across the country, including the nation’s Capital.

The Committee demanded that DHS provide a full accounting of its activities by June 11, 2020, including a complete list of all jurisdictions where it policed protests, the full cost of those efforts, and the legal authority permitting its intervention.

Click here to read the letter.