February 16, 2012

Homeland Security secretary: 'We aren't sitting there monitoring social media'

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said agency officials do not weed through the tweets of incoming foreign travelers in an attempt to spot potential terrorists.

“We aren’t sitting there monitoring social media looking for stuff, that’s not what we do,” said Napolitano at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Napolitano’s comments were in reference to a recent incident in which Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials detained and questioned two British travelers at the Los Angeles airport after one tweeted their intent to, “destroy America.”

Napolitano said that the tweet was taken into account when deciding whether to deport the two British nationals, but that officials were made aware of the tweet from a tip. She said that more information, which was top-secret, was considered before making an ultimate decision.

“In that instance there was a tip and the tip led to a secondary inspection of the individuals and that governed the judgment on exclusion not just the Twitter, or tweet,” said Napolitano.

“I’m really not at liberty to say all of the reasons. I think the impression was left that [Customs and Border Protection] is just sitting around wandering the blogosphere looking for things and that is not what CBP does. They do, however, when they receive a specific tip, have an obligation to follow it up.”

The two Brits were later deported back to England, despite attempts to explain the tweet as a joke in which the term “destroy” was slang for “party,” according to the Daily Mail.

The tweet, posted by one of the travelers one week before his arrival, read: “Free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?”

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