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Pentagon Hires Private Firm to Keep Tabs on Service Members’ Social Media Posts

Concerns about the consolidation of such information abound.

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What was once a world full of whimsical and fantastical possibility has quickly devolved into a tool for control and surveillance, and there may be no turning back.

Social media could very well have been the invention of the millennium, allowing people of different cultures to communicate instantaneously throughout the known universe.  This is the information revolution, and like the industrial revolution before it, has changed the human race forever.

But the consolidation of power within this media sphere has become worrisome, and the societal pressure to use social media in a neutered, muted sort of way has taken a great deal of the potential out of the medium.  This is especially true for folks who have wonderful, but perhaps unbridled ideas, who are now concerned that their online posts could be taken out of context or used against them.

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There are also concerns about the privacy of such posts, and whether or not shielding your online persona from a potential employer reads as a “problem”, or as a judiciously pragmatic decision.

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For military members, these sorts of queries are now coming to a head.

An extremism steering committee led by Bishop Garrison, a senior adviser to the secretary of defense, is currently designing the social media screening pilot program, which will “continuously” monitor military personnel for “concerning behaviors,” according to a Pentagon briefing in late March. Although in the past the military has balked at surveilling service members for extremist political views due to First Amendment protections, the pilot program will rely on a private surveillance firm in order to circumvent First Amendment restrictions on government monitoring, according to a senior Pentagon official. Though the firm has not yet been selected, the current front runner is Babel Street, a company that sells powerful surveillance tools including social media monitoring software.

There are some serious, albeit obvious, concerns.

Babel Street has drawn criticism for its practice of buying bulk cellular location data and selling it to federal national security agencies like the Secret Service, who rely on the private company to bypass warrant requirements normally imposed on government bodies seeking to collect data. In November, Vice reported that the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command used one of Babel Street’s products, Locate X, to track the location of individuals for special forces operations. One method Babel controversially used was to purchase location data associated with the users of a popular Muslim prayer app.

Garrison and Babel Street did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

It is unclear to what extent Congress is aware of the program, if it all. When asked about the program, a spokesperson for Rep. Don Bacon, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said they were not aware of it.

Of course, the idea that any private entity would be in possession of a consolidated list of military members is also concerning, as this sort of information could be used to target our service members either for retribution or radicalization, which wholly defeats the purpose of the program in the first place.

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MUST SEE: Brave Alaskan Helps Baby Moose Navigate Highway Barrier

Normally, stories about moose on the highway don’t end this well.

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Alaska is a state like no other.  It’s still a veritably untamed place, where the weather and the wildlife are both out to get you. It takes a special kind of person to hack it in America’s last frontier.  A simple run to the grocery store can be hazardous in some conditions, and just taking the garbage out at night may find you face-to-face with hundreds of pounds of brown bear. But ask any Alaskan what they hope to avoid the most, and many will tell you it’s the moose that you have to worry about. These creatures are simply enormous, and they have just enough of an attitude to be more than a nuisance when confronted.  Combine that with the fact that plenty of Alaskans are killed each year after automotive collisions with these gargantuan animals, and you have a real recipe for trouble. This week, however, a different sort of moose story made headlines, and with some adorable photos to show for it. Last week, pictures of a man in Alaska lifting a moose calf over a highway guardrail were posted on Facebook. According to Andrea N Salty Bock, who posted the pictures on Facebook, the calf and its mother were near Clam Gulch, on the Kenai Peninsula. The mother was apparently trying to get her baby to go over the guardrail, but it was too tall for the calf. “Traffic stopped to give her the room she needed,” the Facebook post said. “But the calf could not clear the guardrail.” The photos were captivating. Authorities, while thankful that the moose was able to continue on its way, warned that the situation was still a dangerous one, despite the size and age of this animal.

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Biden, Putin Appear Ready to Make Deal on Cyber Criminals

Well, it’s a start.

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Vladimir Putin

Of all of the ways in which this latest iteration of the Cold War has manifested itself in recent years, the insidious actors of the digital dimension may very well be the most prominent here in the 21st century. Notably, the den of online thieves and troublemakers who emanate from Russia, and often choose to target individuals and businesses in America.  In the past several weeks alone, hackers with ties to Russia have crippled a gasoline pipeline on the east coast of the United States and the world’s largest meatpackers. Now, as US President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin look for ways to improve the ailing relationship between their two nations, a novel idea has risen in popularity. President Joe Biden signaled an openness to swapping cybercriminals with Russia ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday. “Yes, I’m open to, if there’s crimes committed against Russia that, in fact, people committing those crimes are being harbored in the United States, I’m committed to holding them accountable. I was told as I was flying here that he said that. I think that’s potentially a good sign of progress,” Biden said at a post-G-7 summit press conference in the United Kingdom on Sunday. Putin had raised the possibility during an interview over the weekend. “If we agree on the extradition of criminals, then Russia will naturally do that but only if the other side, in this case, the United States, agrees to the same and will also extradite corresponding criminals to the Russian Federation,” Putin said according to Russian news agency TASS. Of course, given that Russia has a history of neglecting the human rights of her prisoners, there is sure to be some pushback regarding the idea of sending “innocent until proven guilty” perpetrators…

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