The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly using paid undercover informants to gather intelligence on the migrant caravan nearing the US-Mexico border, according to multiple news reports .
Homeland Security is also monitoring the migrants through the WhatsApp text messaging app, which is being used as a communication tool for the roughly 4,000 migrants, two department officials told NBC News. Officials are said to have joined the migrants' WhatsApp groups to monitor communications, many of them from Honduras and seeking asylum.
Through their intelligence-gathering efforts, officials received word that a group of migrants may be bolting through car lanes near the San Diego border in California. The Customs and Border Protection agency reportedly shut down an entire section of lanes at the border crossing between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m., but the crossing never occurred.AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd
It was unclear whether the agency's measures affected the migrant group's purported plans.
The exact cost of the program was unclear, but one Defense Department source estimated the cost of paying informants and analyzing their intelligence to be thousands of dollars, according to Newsweek.
In a statement, Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman cited security concerns and did not discuss specific methods of gathering intelligence.
"While not commenting on sources or methods, it would be malpractice for the United States to be ignorant about the migrants ― including many criminals ― attempting to enter our country," Waldman said, according to NBC News. "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."
On Monday, a federal judge blocked President Donald Trump's move to curb the number of asylum-seeking migrants who cross the US-Mexico border at ports of entry. White House and Homeland Security officials have warned that hundreds of people from the caravan pose a national security threat, a description that was previously contradicted by the Defense Department's own risk assessment.