Oregon’s attorney general said she was “appalled” to learn this week that an investigator working within the state’s criminal division had conducted social media surveillance of Black Lives Matter activists.
Attorney General Ellen F. Rosenblum wrote in a letter on Tuesday that she suspended the employee after becoming aware that the investigator had scoured Twitter specifically for posts containing the phrase “#BlackLivesMatter.”
“When I initially heard about this incident I was appalled,” she wrote in a letter to the Urban League of Portland.
“To my knowledge, the materials generated by this inquiry were not distributed or used beyond the Oregon Department of Justice,” the attorney general continued.
An internal investigation has been launched within the department, the attorney general added, and the employee has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Nevertheless, Ms. Rosenblum said that the apparent social media monitoring of activists “raises many troubling questions.”
“On a personal note, I have no seen firsthand how devastating profiling can be — written on the face of a member of my team. It must not continue,” the attorney general said.
The Oregon Attorney General’s Office became aware of the profiling after receiving a letter earlier in the week from civil rights leaders who claimed local activists had been targeted.
“We are concerned that such unwarranted investigations are racially motivated, and create a chilling effect on social justice advocates, political activists and others who wish to engage in discourse about the issues of our time,” wrote Urban League of Portland’s president, Nkenge Harmon Johnson.
Responding to the allegations of online surveillance, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a statement that profiling people based on their politics “undercuts the fundamental freedoms that our country was founded on.”
“If people can be targeted for speech and activities protected by the First Amendment, then they will be reluctant to speak or write openly about their beliefs,” the ACLU said.