Federal agency seeks to track “effectiveness of public affairs messaging”
Paul Joseph Watson
Friday, February 17, 2012
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has followed in the footsteps of the DHS in looking to hire a private contractor that will monitor news coverage of the agency’s activities on a 24/7 basis.
“FEMA is planning to award a 100% small business set-aside contract to a media monitoring firm that can monitor, archive and measure all local news in “major Nielsen markets,” all nationally broadcast news and all cable outlets for their news coverage of FEMA activities in the field across the U.S.,” reports Government Security News.
The program is similar in nature to a Department of Homeland Security monitoring effort that stoked controversy and a congressional hearing after it emerged that the DHS had hired an outside contractor, General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, to monitor social media outlets along with a list of websites, on a “24/7/365 basis,” in order to uncover “any media reports that reflect adversely on the U.S. Government and the Department.”
This included monitoring remarks by residents of Standish, Michigan in “newspaper comment talkbacks, local blogs, Twitter posts, and publicly available Facebook posts,” to gage the response to a plan to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to a local prison.
Although the FEMA contract does not specifically mention the monitoring of blogs and comments made by Internet users, it does call for the program to “Monitor the effectiveness of public affairs messaging,” which implies that feedback from citizens regarding FEMA’s activities will be part of the process.
The FEMA contract for the monitoring service explains that the agency is looking for information on “media statistics including the audience exposure and publicity value” for news items related to FEMA.
Concerned about its reputation in the eyes of American citizens who are growing increasingly wary of big government, this is not the first time FEMA has reached out to try and massage its image following the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which “evoked some of the harshest criticism the agency has ever faced.”
As we exclusively reported in 2006, a story that was later confirmed by KSLA news agency the following year, FEMA has created ‘Clergy Response Teams’ trained by the federal government to “quell dissent” and pacify citizens to obey the government in the event of a declaration of martial law.
The program recruited pastors and other religious representatives to become secret police enforcers who teach their congregations to “obey the government” in preparation for the implementation of martial law, property and firearm seizures, mass vaccination programs and forced relocation.
Even in the absence of such emergencies, the federal government has already announced that it is actively monitoring social media for signs of “social unrest”, in a bid to pre-empt any sign of civil dislocation within the United States.
Representatives from the Department of Homeland Security yesterday stonewalled a Congressional hearing into the DHS’ monitoring of news and social media by refusing to give specific answers on what measures were being taken to prevent the program creating a “chilling effect” whereby people would be afraid to leave negative comments in online forums for fear of retribution.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center, who obtained 300 documents via a FOIA request detailing how the DHS was tracking websites like the Drudge Report, Huffington Post, Facebook and Twitter, submitted a statement to the Subcommittee Hearing arguing that “The DHS monitoring of social networks and media organizations is entirely without legal basis and threatens important free speech and expression rights.”
Watch a KSLA report on FEMA’s ‘Clergy Response Teams’ below.