Jun 6, 2020 - Politics & Policy

House Democrats call for investigation into DEA protester surveillance

A group of masked protesters holding signs cross the Brooklyn Bridge in New York

Protesters walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan on June 6. Photo: Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats on the Oversight Committee called Saturday for the Department of Homeland Security to explain how it has surveilled people protesting the killing of George Floyd.

Driving the news: The committee's probe follows a Drug Enforcement Administration memo, first obtained by BuzzFeed News, that granted the agency temporary heightened powers to "enforce federal criminal laws in the wake of protests arising from the death of George Floyd."

Details: On May 31, the DEA was granted the temporary power on a nationwide basis to "conduct covert surveillance and protect against threats to public safety" and share collected intelligence with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. The memo authorized the new powers for two weeks.

What they're saying: "This Administration has undermined the First Amendment freedoms of Americans of all races who are rightfully protesting George Floyd’s killing. The deployment of drones and officers to surveil protests is a gross abuse of authority and is particularly chilling when used against Americans who are protesting law enforcement brutality," the lawmakers said in their letter to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf.

  • The DHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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