At least one employee of the Oregon Department of Justice is under investigation for gathering information about people who used the hashtag “Black Lives Matter” on Twitter.
The Urban League of Portland raised complaints about the surveillance Tuesday in a letter to Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. In the letter, the League accused the DOJ of conducting “threat assessments” of people using the “Black Lives Matter” hashtag.
According to the DOJ, an investigator with the department’s Criminal Division had been using an online search tool to monitor individuals who used certain hashtags on Twitter that he believed were linked to threats against the police.
OPB All Things Considered Host Kate Davidson spoke with Rosenblum about what she calls profiling and the investigation Wednesday afternoon.
Here are some highlights from that interview:
- The DOJ employee was using an online tool called Digital Stakeout on a trial basis, Rosenblum said. According to the company’s website, Digital Stakeout is “a cloud-based threat intelligence platform that mines the web in real-time” and allows police and other agencies to “acquire the insights you need to manage cyber risk and mitigate threats.”
- Rosenblum expressed regret that Erious Johnson, Jr., her department’s Civil Rights Division director, was a subject of the digital surveillance.
“This would be a horrible thing to happen with any employee, let alone a close and trusted member of my executive team,” she said.
- In addition to searching social media for people in the Salem area using the term #blacklivesmatter, Rosenblum said “F- the police” was another hashtag that was searched by the DOJ employee.
- The search was for threats against the police or anti-police sentiments, Rosenblum said.
“They had connected certain hashtags … to what they believed to include threats to the police,” she said. “They chose those particular hashtags as part of this demo that they were using this search tool for.”
- Rosenblum said the law may have been broken, since it’s illegal for law enforcement to gather information about people’s political, social and religious views and associations and activities, unless it has reason to suspect it involves a violation of law.
“There is a statute that does make it, as a general matter, illegal to search for those kinds of things,” she said. “And I’m very concerned that there may have been a violation of a statute here.”
- Rosenblum was asked if she still has credibility to lead a statewide task force that will look at law enforcement profiling in Oregon. Here’s what she said:
“I think what’s important is how I handle this. And I hope that the people understand that I’m as outraged as they are.”