WASHINGTON – Routine gripes posted online about a Metro delay or a downed power line may be popping up on unexpected computer screens.
The Department of Homeland Security earlier this year released a list of key words and search terms for sniffing out possible terrorist threats and monitoring dangerous weather and public health emergencies.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) posted the manual following a Freedom of Information Act request. While words such as “attack” or “chemical weapon” may seem like obvious picks, many others on the list are staples in the Washington lexicon.
Under the single heading “Infrastructure Security,” the following words make the list: Metro, WMATA, body scanner, failure or outage, bridge, cancelled, delays, service disruption and power lines.
The words “pork” and “swine” also may raise a flag for possible health concerns.
The Huffington Post’s Andrea Stone first reported on the key words for monitoring social media and news.
The manual itself says the list of terms will be used “when monitoring social media sites to provide situational awareness and establish a common operating picture.” Stone reports a DHS official denied EPIC’s accusation that the agency is looking for dissent.
Below is the DHS Analyst’s Desktop Binder. Scroll to page 20 for the full list of “Key Words & Search Terms”