Americans meeting with their congressmen and women are getting attention from the Capitol Police that not even members of Congress knew about.
A Capitol Police unit that’s supposed to protect Congress has stepped up its scrutiny of lawmakers’ activities to the point where social media accounts of those meeting with their elected representatives are being scoured for information far removed from the actual event, according to a Politico report Tuesday.
And if the Capitol Police think the measures are justified, some surprised Republican lawmakers don’t agree. And neither should Americans who care about their rights.
“Whatever they think that sounds like for security, it sounds dangerously close — if not already over the line — to spying on members of Congress, their staff, their constituents and their supporters,” North Dakota Republican Kelly Armstrong, now in his second term, told Politico.
“Anybody involved with implementing this without making it known to the actual members of Congress should resign or be fired immediately,” he added. “And I’m not big on calling for resignations.”
According to Politico, the practice started in the months after the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol incursion — of course.
The Capitol Police previously evaluated scheduled congressional events for potential security risks where large crowds would likely be present — parades, concerts and the like. That would be understandable enough.
But things changed after Jan. 6, Politico reported. The police force’s intelligence unit, under the leadership of Julie Farnham, a former division chief with the Department of Homeland Security, began to “to look closely at the people meeting privately and publicly with members,” according to Politico.
The unit is now looking at potential foreign connections, according to Politico, such as ownership of properties where meetings take place, or the presence of a diplomatic delegation or mission in the area.
Do you consider this “spying” on citizens and their representatives?
One particularly disturbing aspect of the unit’s practice was looking for “any information about event attendees, including donors and staff, ‘that would cast a member in a negative light,’” as one Politico source described it to the outlet.
That sounds more like the kind of kompromat Soviet security forces might look for to blackmail dissidents and opposing politicians — or the worst practices of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI.
Fox News’ Tucker Carlson highlighted the Politico report on Tuesday and interviewed Armstrong:
Capitol Hill Police are spying on elected members of Congress, their staff, and private citizens. pic.twitter.com/vo6p5CL27A
— Tucker Carlson (@TuckerCarlson) January 26, 2022
“Secret surveillance of American citizens without probable cause is never OK,” Armstrong told Carlson.
“They are literally collecting all kinds of information on our constituents, our donors, our supporters,” he said.
The Politico report cited an event involving Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott:
“Analysts also were tasked with sifting through tax and real estate records to find out who owned the properties that lawmakers visited. For example, the unit scrutinized a meeting that Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) held with donors in a private home. Analysts eyed the homeowner’s and attendees’ social media accounts, and looked for any foreign contacts they had.”
Defending the heightened scrutiny of those meeting with elected American lawmakers, a Capitol Police statement to Politico said the organization was using only “public information.”
“It is our duty to protect Members of Congress wherever they are,” the statement said. “Just like journalists, we do research with public information.”
Right. Conservatives in the United States are well aware of how fairly “journalists” employ public information in 2022.
And any American who’s followed the news over the past years should be well aware of how the country’s institutions at the federal level have been obviously tainted with political bias – all going in one direction.
Former FBI Director James Comey’s blatant politicization of his position to fight Donald Trump, and the disgraceful conduct of former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (now a CNN contributor, of course) have tarnished the reputation of the country’s premier law enforcement agency.
Former CIA Director John Brennan spent the Trump years openly trying to subvert an elected American president, making just about any judgment by the “intelligence community” suspect.
The Justice Department, even during the Trump presidency, enabled the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation into the Russia “collusion” hoax that was a constant distraction to the Trump White House before collapsing under its own weight.
Now led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, the DOJ is eyeing parents of American schoolchildren as domestic terrorists while real-life terrorists are free to fly into the country from abroad and take Jews hostage in a synagogue.
Conservatives already had plenty of good reasons not to trust federal law enforcement agencies at the political level. And considering Politico is no bastion of right-wing information, this report is just one more.
At a time when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has empaneled a kangaroo court committee to “investigate” the Jan. 6 incursion and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer uses the event to push legislation that would distort the entire democratic process in the country, there’s even more reason for doubt.
In a statement, Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis told Politico his boss was not happy to hear about the Capitol Police unit’s activities.
“These reports are incredibly disturbing,” Lewis said. “It is unthinkable that any government entity would conduct secret investigations to build political dossiers on private Americans.
“The American people deserve to know what Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi knew and directed, and when. Senator Scott believes the Senate Rules Committee should immediately investigate.”
The best chance for that to happen would be if the Senate — and its Rules Committee — were in Republican hands. And that means sane Americans need to do their part in the midterm elections.
Predictions of a “red wave” are good to hear, and they’re not hard to find, but they need Americans who care about their country to make them happen.
If every Republican and conservative who cares about the country shows up at the polls in November, there’s a solid chance that the Senate – and its Rules Committee — will be in GOP hands after the midterms. And the House of Representatives will be, too, so members of Congress can start looking into who exactly is looking into them – and why.
As Rachel Bovard wrote Wednesday in The Federalist:
“The Capitol Police have provided no detailed justification. Nor have they said what they are doing with the records, how long those records are being stored, or what other purposes they have. The agency is only subject to congressional oversight — not to public records requests.
“One can imagine how easily these searches could become politicized: Personal details on Capitol Hill staff, state legislators, or donors are dispersed to partisans and suddenly leaked at an opportune political moment by some agency conveniently immune to the Freedom of Information Act and subject to limited oversight.
“After the aggressive leaking, spinning, and shaming that bureaucrats engaged in during the Donald Trump years, we’ve seen what’s possible.”
Americans in recent years have seen all too well what’s possible from their federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies when it comes to infringing on their rights.
And they’ve already seen the Capitol Police expanding its presence well beyond the District of Columbia — to Florida and California — to deal with supposed threats to lawmakers.
They don’t need to see it expanding into spying on American citizens, too.