Scam Artists Have Misused the DHS Seal. One Lawmaker Wants to Change That
“It is clear the department needs express authority to protect its seal so it can pursue action against those who unlawfully misappropriate it,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson.
The Homeland Security Department’s seal needs stronger protections against misappropriation and exploitation, according to a top House lawmaker.
“With the recent infiltration of the Secret Service by individuals impersonating DHS officers, it is clear the department needs express authority to protect its seal so it can pursue action against those who unlawfully misappropriate it,” Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on Monday, upon introducing new legislation. “With its diverse national security mission, DHS needs the protections that other federal departments and agencies have.”
DHS, established in 2003 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, has some protections that generally ban the misuse or exploitation of its symbol, but the seal does not have specific protections like seals for other federal departments and agencies, according to Thompson.
His bill would “prohibit the knowing use of the DHS seal or colorable imitation of the seal in a way that gives the false impression that DHS has authorized such use unless authorized, in writing, to do so by the DHS Secretary,” said a fact sheet. “It clarifies that a DHS officer or employee engaged in official duties would not be affected and that current lawful users of designs in existence at the time of enactment would be grandfathered.”
This comes after DHS submitted a legislative proposal to Congress in August 2021 to bolster protections of its seal, which was part of a bigger trademark and licensing package. It also comes after federal prosecutors charged two men in early April for impersonating Homeland Security officers and duping members of the Secret Service.
“In furtherance of their false and fraudulent conduct, [Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali] obtained paraphernalia with the insignias of and firearms, including handguns and assault rifles, used by federal law enforcement agencies,” said a court filing. Both pleaded not guilty later in April.
Beyond this, “examples of misappropriation of the DHS seal include a tornado shelter manufacturer using the seal to endorse its products, a website using the seal to advertise medical examinations, and online retailers selling face masks displaying the seal during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a press release from Thompson’s office.
The House Homeland Security Committee will mark up this bill, among others, on Thursday.