Matt Drudge—who can usually be found boasting about all his mouth-breathing readers—has been taking umbrage today at the revelation that Department of Homeland Security officials "monitor" his web site, along with about 200 other news and social networking sites. Or as Glenn Beck's Blaze hilariously put it, "Homeland Security Given Green Light to Monitor American Journalists." So what do you call reading a newspaper?
The story is this: DHS maintains a list of web sites that it keeps tabs on for "situational awareness" purposes. Among them are Flickr, MySpace (ha!), Facebook, Newsweek, the New York Times, and the Drudge Report. The list is posted on DHS' web site for any and all curious conspiracy-mongers to peruse. And it is by no means a new story: A list of such "monitored" sites has been on the internet since at least June of 2010.
But an updated compendium of what amounts to DHS's RSS feed was released late last year, and Reuters' Mark Hosenball wrote an innocuous story yesterday pointing it out, because it's kind of interesting to know who the DHS is reading (not us, sadly). It was essentially an update of a story Hosenball had written two years ago. For some reason, Drudge and other right-wing paranoiacs took it as an opportunity to sow panic about "Big Sis" keeping tabs on reporters—by reading what they write, subscribing to their Twitter feeds, or following them on Facebook.
Which is tendentious and stupid. Human beings work for the federal government. Often, to do their jobs, they need to have access to information. Such information is often supplied by news outlets and social media sites, which make it available, sometimes at no charge and sometimes for a fee, to all manner of readers, including federal employees. So they read them. They also read newspapers, magazines, and newsletters, and watch television. Drudge has always known exactly how many fascists inside DHS have been spying on him—they show up in his visitor logs.
What do you think Drudge's headline would be if DHS employees were, per his wishes, barred from accessing his site?