A bill that has been approved by the Senate Intelligence Committee would see a reduction of the current domestic intelligence program being run by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which has allowed agency officials to interrogate jailed Americans without a lawyer present.
As Politico reports, the proposal in question was already included in the bill governing the intelligence community that was passed by the committee last month. The proposal would limit the exact type of person that DHS officials could legally interrogate in the name of domestic intelligence. It would also reduce the authority of the DHS to gather the social media posts of American citizens for use in intelligence products.
The practice of DHS officials interrogating Americans without a lawyer present raised concerns with civil rights advocates after it was first reported by Politico in March. Advocates have said that, when a lawyer is not present, these interrogations become inherently coercive, often forcing the detained individual into incriminating themselves out of intimidation.
Under the new proposal, the DHS would be forbidden from engaging in “the collection of information or intelligence targeting any United States person,” with only a few exceptions. The 2016 DHS instruction manual previously gave the intelligence program broad authority to question nearly everybody in the United States.
The Intelligence Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2024 passed in the Senate Intelligence Committee by a unanimous vote on June 14th, with the bill set to be added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that has already passed in the House of Representatives.
Republicans on the committee voiced their support for the measure due to its severe restrictions on the DHS’ ability to abuse their power under the guise of domestic intelligence gathering. The Republicans’ statement on the matter referenced a “news story from March 2023 exposed a troubling I&A practice of conducting custodial debriefings of individuals — including American citizens —without those individuals having any representative counsel present.”
“We strongly support federal, state and local law enforcement investigating domestic violent extremism in its many manifestations,” the statement continued, adding that “domestic law enforcement is not a job for the IC (intelligence community).”