The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been secretly operating a domestic intelligence program called the “Overt Human Intelligence Collection Program,” according to an investigation by Politico.
The program allows officials to interview Americans, including those in prison and jail, and illegal immigrants in detention centers, without the presence of their lawyers.
The program is used to gather intelligence about threats to the US, such as drug trafficking and organized crime.
The fact that DHS officials can interview incarcerated people without their lawyers raises concerns about civil liberties, according to legal experts.
The program, which has been in place for years, was paused last year due to internal concerns.
The Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which runs the program, has been accused of using legally questionable tactics and facing political pressure.
Employees have raised concerns about the legality of the program, and some have claimed that the program “runs like a corrupt government.”
Former DHS undersecretary for intelligence, Carrie Bachner, criticized the program, calling it “immoral” if it exists to question Americans.
She also questioned what DHS does with the information collected and where it is stored.
The investigation revealed that many program employees were worried they were breaking the law, leading to disputes about how US law applies to the program’s interactions with Americans.
The documents obtained by Politico also showed that some employees wanted the program to pay for legal liability insurance.
The existence of the program has been virtually unknown, with only a small number of people aware of its inner workings.
The fact that it has been in operation for years raises concerns about the potential misuse of the information gathered.