The Commerce Department had a shadowy security unit that was supposed protect their officials and facilities but greatly expanded to collect information on hundreds of people inside and outside the Commerce Department, a Washington Post investigation found. The Investigations and Threat Management Service (ITMS) searched employees’ offices during nighttime hours, ran broad keyword searches of their emails to find signs of foreign influence and sampled Americans’ social media posts for critical comments about the census, according to documents and interviews with five former investigators.
The Washington Post investigation found a case had been opened for a retiree in Florida who tweeted that the census would be manipulated “to benefit the Trump Party!” records show. This was a 68 year old man who was not working for the Commerce Department and his tweet was not threatening. He was just posting his opinion. And it appears that this was exactly what transpired.
They also searched for particular Chinese words, in order to view Asian American Commerce Department posts.
John Costello, a former deputy assistant secretary of intelligence and security at the Commerce Department in the Trump Administration, said that the office “has been allowed to operate far outside the bounds of federal law enforcement norms and has created an environment of paranoia and retaliation at the Department.”
ITMS “rests on questionable legal authority and has suffered from poor management and lack of sufficient legal and managerial oversight for much of its existence,” Costello said. This investigation shows how the Trump Administration was able to use questionable means to further their political agenda.