WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security is gathering intelligence from paid undercover informants inside the migrant caravan that is now reaching the California-Mexico border as well as monitoring the text messages of migrants, according to two DHS officials.
The 4,000 migrants, mainly from Honduras, have used WhatsApp text message groups as a way to organize and communicate along their journey to the California border, and DHS personnel have joined those groups to gather that information.
The intelligence gathering techniques are combined with reports from DHS personnel working in Mexico with the government there in an effort to keep tabs on the caravan’s size, movements and any potential security threats.
On Monday, DHS officials told reporters that their intelligence on Sunday night had indicated that a group of migrants wanted to run through the car lanes of a border crossing near San Diego. Customs and Border Protection shut down all northbound lanes of the crossing from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. as a result. However, the ambush was never attempted.
Paying informants, placing officers in the region or 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.