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Countering Domestic Terrorism and its Impacts on Privacy and Civil Liberties
In this Oversight Project (“Project”), the Board will examine Executive Branch (“Government”) policies and activities to counter domestic terrorism. The Board will focus this project on two simultaneous and distinct workstreams: the impact on First Amendment rights; and the impact on privacy and civil liberties of particular groups, such as those with shared racial, religious, political, or ideological affiliations. Across both workstreams, the Board will examine how the Government collects, retains, analyzes, and disseminates information about domestic terrorism threats; and how it operationally responds to and seeks to prevent domestic terrorism. Through the Project, the Board seeks to increase transparency regarding the Government’s activities to counter domestic terrorism, and to explore whether any changes to existing policies or activities should be made to better protect privacy and civil liberties.
First Amendment Workstream:
The Board will examine how the Government’s activities to counter domestic terrorism intersect with First Amendment rights. This will focus on how the Government, in its efforts to counter domestic terrorism:
- Distinguishes First Amendment-protected speech and activity, including political, religious, and protest speech or activity, from domestic terrorism, and how that distinction is reflected in the Government’s policy and training;
- Ensures that operational personnel comply with such policy and training as they execute mission activities, including and with respect to communities of color, religious communities, and political groups;
- Collects, retains, analyzes, and disseminates publicly accessible online activity;
- Defines, identifies, evaluates, seeks to counter, and seeks to suppress mis- and disinformation;
- Engages with and/or directs social media companies and other third parties regarding domestic terrorism and all the categories of speech and activities referenced above, and the resulting impact on individual users’ or groups’ speech; and
- Distinguishes the speech of foreign actors from that of U.S. persons.
Shared Affiliations Workstream:
The Board will examine whether and how the Government’s efforts to counter domestic terrorism uniquely affect the privacy and civil liberties of particular groups, with an emphasis on rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Examples of such groups may include persons with shared racial, religious, political, or ideological affiliations. The Board’s project will also cover those groups whose members are suspected of engaging in domestic terrorism, as well as those whose members are targets or victims of domestic terrorism. The project will focus on whether the policies, tools, and resources for counter-terrorism operations are appropriate relative to the threat presented or faced by members of these groups. The Board will examine how the Government, in its efforts to counter domestic terrorism:
- Defines and identifies distinct groups of people that may present or face a significant level of domestic terrorism threat meriting Government response, prevention, or protection activities;
- Assesses the domestic terrorism threat presented or faced by such groups, and prioritizes the Government response, including prevention and protection activities;
- Determines the type, amount, and allocation of resources considering the level of the domestic terrorism threat to and from such groups;
- Ensures that efforts to counter domestic terrorism do not disproportionately or otherwise inappropriately affect particular racial groups, historically underserved communities, religious groups, politically disfavored groups, and other individuals, relative to the threat, and how this is reflected in the Government’s policy and training;
- Ensures that operational personnel comply with such policy and training as they execute mission activities, including and with respect to communities of color, religious communities, and political groups; and
- Limits use of racial, religious, political, or ideological affiliation as a predicate for investigation or surveillance.