Washington. May 20. Whistleblowers are reporting that the U.S. Commerce Department–the massive federal cabinet responsible for administrating the U.S. Census–has secretly developed a secretive spy agency, the “Investigations and Threat Management Service” (ITMS). Whistleblowers report that the spying agency has scoured the social media of the American people to identify sentiments which criticize the U.S. Census.
The Census Bureau deceives Americans each decade by falsely assuring people that their responses to Census questions will never be used against them. During World War II, the government used Census records to identify citizens of Japanese ancestry and round them up for imprisonment in concentration camps.
The office “has been allowed to operate far outside the bounds of federal law enforcement norms and has created an environment of paranoia and retaliation at the Department,” John Costello, a former deputy assistant secretary of intelligence and security at Commerce in the Trump administration, said.
ITMS “rests on questionable legal authority and has suffered from poor management and lack of sufficient legal and managerial oversight for much of its existence,” Costello said.
The unit’s tactics appear as if “someone watched too many ‘Mission Impossible’ movies,” said Bruce Ridlen, a former supervisor.
Investigators lodged complaints with supervisors, and the department’s internal watchdog launched multiple inquiries, documents show. In an internal memo laying out his concerns about the unit, Costello described an inspector general’s investigation that he said had found it had no legal authority to conduct criminal investigations.
But the unit has managed to keep a low public profile until now, while pursuing investigations into “counterintelligence, transnational crime and counterterrorism,” as it described its activities in a 2018 budget document submitted to Congress.
ITMS also launched probes starting in April 2020 into the authors of dozens of social media posts that questioned the integrity or fairness of the census, according to internal records. The cases were billed as an effort to detect any “organized disinformation campaign,” according to a memo the unit sent to the FBI.
Dozens of postings were compiled in a spreadsheet called the Social Media Tracker, internal records show. The spreadsheet shows that investigators completed “high-side” checks — a nickname for searches on secure intelligence databases — on dozens of accounts holders.