12:15 GMT +317 December 2018
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    US Government Infiltrates Migrant Caravan Chat Rooms to Stay Updated – Reports

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    The migrants from the caravan use WhatsApp chat groups for coordination – and the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has infiltrated them to gather information on the caravan.

    The DHS appears to be taking the migrant caravan threat rather seriously, as it has kept its all-seeing digital eye trained on the migrants' text communications, according to an NBC report.

    The migrants have used WhatsApp, a text messaging application, extensively to coordinate their journey to US border. The caravan, which consists largely of people from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, has thinned since it began its journey, and NBC reports it currently numbers roughly 4,000.

    Keen on keeping itself updated, DHS joined those chat groups to sniff out new information, NBC reports.

    In addition to digital surveillance, there are DHS staff working in Mexico, in cooperation with Mexican authorities, keeping tabs on the caravan, its size and movements, as well as any potential security threats. It has long been rumoured that gang members, as well as potential Islamic terrorists, may be among Central American migrant crowds. At least one case of child trafficking has been reported from the caravan.

    The operation has not always been successful and sometimes can return misinformation, DHS acknowledged. On Monday, the operatives caught wind of a rumor that a group of migrants was preparing to dash through the car lanes at a US border entry point. As a result, US Customs and Border Protection shut down all car lanes for some three hours, but the breakthrough never happened.

    Unsurprisingly, despite its justification as a matter of national security, the operation has already received its share of criticism. While critics acknowledged that operations of this kind are not illegal, they decried the spending of DHS resources for the surveillance.

    "Those resources have to come from someplace. They are not being devoted to thwarting terrorist threats, mass shootings, mailed fentanyl coming into the country or cyber-attacks," said John Cohen, former acting undersecretary of intelligence at DHS.

    "I find it hard to believe that the highest risk facing this nation comes from this caravan," he added.

    DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman addressed the issue by saying that 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," she added.

    The exact amount of money and resources spent on the caravan surveillance remains undisclosed, NBC reported.

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    Tags:
    Migrant Caravan, WhatsApp, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), United States
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