By Brian Hauss, Legal Fellow, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 3:49pm
In response to an ACLU Freedom of Information Act request, the Department of Homeland Security has at long last released its December 2011 Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Impact Assessment of its policy of conducting suspicionless searches of electronic devices at the border. Because of the sensitive, personal nature of the records we all carry with us on our laptops and phones, both the First and Fourth Amendments prohibit the government from searching these devices at the border, absent reasonable suspicion that a search will turn up evidence of wrongdoing.
By Noa Yachot, Communications Strategist, ACLU at 10:13am
Alex Gibney, the Oscar-winning director of the new documentary “We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks,” joined the ACLU’s Ben Wizner to talk whistleblowers, accountability, and government efforts to plug leaks.
The start of the Bradley Manning trial this week comes against the backdrop of a broader crackdown on journalists and their sources, who play a critical role in exposing the government’s growing arsenal of secrets. Gibney and Wizner discuss the charges against Manning, and whether recent investigations—including both those against Fox News reporter James Rosen and WikiLeaks—indicate a creeping criminalization of the journalistic activity that is critical for a healthy democracy.
The result, as “We Steal Secrets” demonstrates—as does “Taxi to the Dark Side,” Gibney’s Oscar-winning documentary exploring the Bush administration’s torture regime—is an erosion of the mechanisms designed to make government both transparent and accountable for its mistakes and even crimes. Gibney asks, “Within the context of a government that’s making everything secret, there comes a point where, if there aren’t leaks, then how are we to hold the government ever to account?”
(WikiLeaks, for its part, took issue with its portrayal in “We Steal Secrets”—read some of the organization’s objections here.)
Court rulings unsealed last week in Washington show for the first time a behind-the-scenes legal battle over when the government should have to tell you that it's tracking your location and reading your email. These documents—which came to light only as the public learned more about the government's controversial investigation of Fox News journalist James Rosen—reveal significant new details about the government's obligation to provide notice, after the fact, when it obtains geolocation data or obtains stored email messages. Indeed, the court orders bring to light a striking contrast: federal prosecutors in Washington routinely provide notice to individuals they track using cell-phone geolocation data, even if that notice is delayed, yet the government strenuously resists giving any notice to individuals when searching and reading their emails.
By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 9:57am
The New York Times ran an article yesterday about pressure that is mounting on Facebook to censor websites full of awful misogynistic material. The company said it was reviewing its processes for dealing with content under its hate speech policy.
By Alex Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 10:59am
This Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2, mark the first annual National Day of Civic Hacking. The ACLU is participating by enabling developers to access our Torture Database and in turn make this information even more accessible to the public. Starting now, anyone can access the extensive data amassed by the ACLU relating to the Bush administration’s rendition, detention, and interrogation policies and practices.
By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 4:21pm
Yesterday, the Texas House of Representatives passed the first bill in the nation that would require law enforcement to obtain a probable cause warrant before tracking individuals’ location by collecting their cell phone location data. As Rebecca Robertson, legal and policy director for the ACLU of Texas put it, “By approving this amendment, our legislators would take a significant step to preserve the Fourth Amendment rights of Texas citizens, protecting them from potential unreasonable searches and seizures that could take place entirely outside judicial review.” They would also set a precedent that the rest of the country should be quick to follow.
Last week we learned that the Department of Justice, in an unprecedented intrusion on the work of journalists, had obtained records for twenty telephone numbers belonging to the Associated Press or its reporters, spanning April and May 2012. The telephone records obtained do not include the content of phone calls, but they likely reveal the phone number of each and every caller on those lines for a period of weeks and, therefore, the identity of scores of confidential media sources.
The seizure of these records came to light only because the government has a special set of guidelines that require it to notify any media organization of a subpoena for its records within (at most) 90 days. The AP appears to have learned of the seizure of its phone records, albeit after the fact, only because of this special policy.
The notice given to the AP has generated a healthy debate over the limits on the government’s authority to acquire our telephone and internet records. But what if you aren’t a media organization and, therefore, do not benefit from the special government policy entitling you to notice when the government obtains your telephone or internet records? What information can the government get about you, and is it even required to tell you when it does so?