The U.S. government has broadened an interpretation of which citizens can be subject to physical or digital surveillance to include “homegrown violent extremists,” according to official documents seen by Reuters.
The change last year to a Department of Defense manual on procedures governing its intelligence activities was made possible by a decades-old presidential executive order, bypassing congressional and court review.
The new manual, released in August 2016, now permits the collection of information about Americans for counterintelligence purposes “when no specific connection to foreign terrorist(s) has been established,” according to training slides created last year by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI).
The slides were obtained by Human Rights Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request about the use of federal surveillance laws for counter-drug or immigration purposes and shared exclusively with Reuters.
The Air Force and the Department of Defense told Reuters that the documents are authentic.
The slides list the shooting attacks in San Bernardino, California, in December 2015 and Orlando, Florida, in June 2016 as examples that would fall under the “homegrown violent extremist” category. The shooters had declared fealty to Islamic State shortly before or during the attacks, but investigators found no actual links to the organization that has carried out shootings and bombings of civilians worldwide.