According to a report from Politico, President Biden's Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been keeping a secret domestic intelligence program that enables agency officials to interrogate Americans without their lawyers present. The program, known as the "Overt Human Intelligence Collection Program," permits DHS officials to interview Americans in prison and jail, as well as illegal immigrants in detention centers. However, the fact that they are allowed to bypass lawyers and speak directly with incarcerated people raises significant civil liberties concerns among legal experts.
Under this domestic intelligence program, officials are authorized to request interviews with practically anyone in the United States, including individuals held in immigrant detention centers, local jails, and federal prisons. DHS's intelligence professionals are required to state that they are conducting intelligence interviews, and they must inform interviewees that their participation is voluntary. Last year, the specific element of the program that allowed officials to interview incarcerated individuals without their lawyers present was temporarily paused due to internal concerns.
The Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which operates the program, uses it to gather information about potential threats to the US, such as transnational drug trafficking and organized crime. However, the fact that this low-profile office is collecting intelligence by questioning people in the US is almost entirely unknown. The inner workings of the program are revealed in a large tranche of internal documents obtained by Politico, which describe the widespread internal concerns about legally questionable tactics and political pressure. Additionally, the documents indicate that individuals working there are afraid of punishment if they speak out about mismanagement and abuses.
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