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State anti-terrorist intelligence agencies often seem to monitor protected activities

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2023 | Civil Rights

The Department of Homeland Security was created after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in part to gather intelligence about plots to commit further terrorism on U.S. soil. States like New Mexico similarly created their own versions of DHS.

However, the original mission of these state-level departments seems to have drifted, if a recent incident involving the Colorado Information Analysis Center (CIAC) is any indication.

‘Warning’ about student protest

According to The Intercept, CIAC was created for counterterrorism intelligence gathering. Which makes its recent report on a planned walkout by high school students in protest of gun violence very strange. In a situational awareness bulletin sent to authorities on Apr. 4, CIAC announced that a group called Students Demand Action had “coordinated a nationwide school walkout amongst students… with similar trends to those seen in Colorado.”

Increased monitoring of protest groups

The connection of this bulletin to terrorism, as The Intercept dryly notes, is “not clear” to the average observer. However, experts say that counterterrorism agencies have tended to start monitoring activist organizations like Students Demand Action, along with pro-environmental and racial justice groups. Previous bulletins from CIAC discuss video games and a social media app for high schoolers called Gas.

For its part, CIAC claims it was providing “situational awareness to our school districts for planning purposes,” not monitoring teenagers’ activities that the First Amendment arguably protects.

Though courts have ruled that students generally do not have the full protection of the Bill of Rights while on school grounds, they still have rights. Protecting civil rights often means taking legal action against the government entity that violated them.