A federal watchdog is investigating whether the Trump administration abused its legal powers when it sought to force Twitter to unmask an anonymous so-called “alt agency” account that has been tweeting criticism of the president.
In March, officials at the Department of Homeland Security tried to tap customs laws in an attempt to figure out the identify of @ALT_USCIS, which claimed to be comprised of disaffected employees at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In response, Twitter sued the Trump administration, claiming it was trying to stifle free speech — and federal officials quietly withdrew their request.
Still, the Department of Homeland Security’s actions drew a sharp rebuke from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who later asked the agency’s inspector general to review the matter.
In a letter sent back to the lawmaker today, the watchdog office confirmed it is probing whether the DHS had done anything “improper” in its attempt to unmask the anonymous account — as well as whether there’s “potential broader misuse of summons authority” at the DHS.
For now, the inspector general said it already has found that the @ALT_USCIS account has not shared classified information. It also confirmed in writing to Wyden that it would not try to determine the identify of that anonymous Twitter user.
“The summons raised serious concerns about improper political use of [the agency’s] summons power to quash free speech,” Wyden said.