Sen. Markey Presses Attorney General on Covert Surveillance of Protestors

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The following is a media release from Sen. Ed Markey, who was elected by voters in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to serve the state in Washington DC in the US Senate. He is a Democrat.


BOSTON – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today, June 11, queried Attorney General William P. Barr following reports that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has approved surveillance of peaceful protestors participating in demonstrations inspired by the killing of George Floyd.

Senator Markey highlighted a number of reports that the federal government has authorized different means of surveillance against protestors in recent weeks.

These include DOJ granting a request from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to engage in “covert surveillance” and conduct “interviews and searches” in response to the ongoing demonstrations. Senator Markey also highlighted the DOJ’s reported engagement with the company Clearview AI and its facial recognition technology, which, as the Senator has previously cautioned, is subject to unanswered questions about its reliability, accuracy (including racial bias), and security.

“As peaceful protestors across the country participate in demonstrations inspired by the killing of George Floyd, they should not be subject to invasive surveillance,” writes Senator Markey in his letter to Attorney General William Barr. “Together, these [reports] of recent high-tech monitoring point to a systematic increase in surveillance practices by federal law enforcement entities in response to recent lawful protest activity.”

A copy of the letter can be found HERE.  

In his letter, Senator Markey asked Attorney General Barr to respond to questions that include:

  • Has DOJ approved the use of “covert surveillance” by any entities other than DEA in response to the ongoing demonstrations?
  • Has DOJ authorized federal law enforcement personnel to use facial recognition technology on footage of demonstrators following George Floyd’s killing?
  • Has DOJ deployed or authorized other federal law enforcement entities to deploy any unmanned aircraft systems to record or otherwise monitor the recent protests throughout the United States?
  • Has DOJ deployed or authorized other federal law enforcement entities to deploy any tools that facilitate cellphone location tracking to monitor the recent protests?  


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