The Department of Homeland Security is allegedly gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants who have infiltrated the migrant caravan moving toward the southern U.S. border. They are also monitoring the text messages of migrants, according to several DHS officials.
The migrants number about 4,000 and are primarily from Honduras. They have used WhatsApp text message groups as a way to organize and communicate along their trek to the California border. DHS officials have joined these groups to get information.
These information techniques are being combined with reports from actual personnel working in Mexico with the government. They are in an effort to monitor the caravan’s size, movements and potential security threats.
This week, DHS officials told reporters that their intelligence had indicated that a group of migrants wanted to run through he car lanes at a border crossing near San Diego. That prompted Customs and Border Protection to shut down all northbound lanes of the crossing from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. as a result.
Paying informants and monitoring the communications of non-U.S. citizens is not illegal, said John Cohen, former acting undersecretary of intelligence for DHS. But it does raise some concerns about the allocation of resources.
“Those resources have to come from some place. They are not being devoted to thwarting terrorist threats, mass shootings, mailed fentanyl coming into the country or cyberattacks,” said Cohen.
“I find it hard to believe that the highest risk facing this nation comes from this caravan,” Cohen said.
It is not known how much money DHS is spending on the intelligence gathering inside the caravan.
In a statement, DHS Spokeswoman Katie Waldman said, “While not commenting on sources or methods, it would be malpractice for the United States to be ignorant about the migrants — including many criminals — attempting to enter our country. We have an obligation to ensure we know who is crossing our borders to protect against threats to the Homeland and any indication to the contrary is misinformed.”