Free Future

The Nine Things You Should Know About the NSA Recommendations From the President’s Review Group

The Nine Things You Should Know About the NSA Recommendations From the President’s Review Group

By Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 12:00am

The President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies just issued a report that unequivocally rejected the notion that privacy and civil liberties must be sacrificed in order to achieve a balance with national security. Liberty and Security in a Changing World includes 46 recommendations for how to reform Intelligence Community programs and practices, several of which would go a long way toward protecting Americans' rights. Here are the nine most important things you need to know about those recommendations.

The Flawed Logic of Secret Mass Surveillance

The Flawed Logic of Secret Mass Surveillance

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:50am

Privacy is a form of power. Humans are always highly aware who is observing them at any given time and place, and always tailor their behavior to that audience. And they generally work to make sure that their behavior does not reveal things that might…

How Private is Your Online Search History?

How Private is Your Online Search History?

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:04pm

The ACLU has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Justice to find out whether federal law enforcement agencies and prosecutors think they need a warrant to obtain people’s search queries from online search engine operators,…

Is the Security State Mainly Looking Out For Us, Or For Itself? Two Paradigms Compared

Is the Security State Mainly Looking Out For Us, Or For Itself? Two Paradigms Compared

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:04am

Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing has generated much debate within the United States over whether his leaking of NSA documents was a heroic act or something deserving of punishment. And the NSA activities that he has revealed have similarly generated…

VICTORY! Federal Appeals Court Rules Warrant Required for GPS Tracking

VICTORY! Federal Appeals Court Rules Warrant Required for GPS Tracking

By Nathan Freed Wessler, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 4:59pm

Today the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that law enforcement agents must obtain a warrant based on probable cause to attach a GPS device to a car and track its movements. The case, United States v. Katzin, is the first in which a federal appeals…

Albert Einstein on America Since 9/11

Albert Einstein on America Since 9/11

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:13am

I recently came across the following quote from Albert Einstein which, if you just sub out “Communism” and replace it with “terrorism,” pretty much nails our current situation:

America is incomparably less endangered by its own Communists…

Documents Shed Light on Border Laptop Searches

Documents Shed Light on Border Laptop Searches

By Brian Hauss, Legal Fellow, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 6:24pm

The case of David Miranda got a lot of attention around the world after UK authorities were accused of abusing an anti-terrorism law to evade the normal constitutional restrains on police power and question someone because of their political associations.…

How Can Smart, Ethical Individuals Form Dumb, Amoral Government Agencies?

How Can Smart, Ethical Individuals Form Dumb, Amoral Government Agencies?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 12:16pm

Yesterday I set forth some reflections on our giant national security establishment, and how we should think about it. I argued that one very useful way of conceptualizing it is not as a result of politics or personality, but as an institution, which to the first approximation is best thought of as a mindless, amoral, and self-perpetuating primitive life form.

And by saying that, I do not mean to disparage any of the individuals who make up those bureaucracies. I live in Washington and am friends with many government workers who are excellent, thoughtful human beings.

But when you gather many human beings into an institution, that institution tends to take on a life of its own. Most of the individuals who make up the gigantic national security state are reasonably intelligent, and many of them no doubt are exceptionally so. But when you aggregate thousands of intelligent human minds together in a bureaucratic organization, the ironic result is that the collective is sometimes dumber than its individual parts. By the same token, there is no particular reason to think that bureaucracies attract a disproportionate number of amoral or immoral individuals—they surely form the same bell curve as any other group of humans when it comes to characteristics such as empathy, sensitivity, and conscience. But the collective set of such humans can exhibit a marked quality of amorality, as exhibited for example by the willingness of security bureaucracies to do horrifying things such as continue to detain people at Guantanamo who are known to pose no threat to the United States.

Complexity theorists have a concept called emergence, which refers to the fact that when large numbers of individuals

How to Think About the National Security State

How to Think About the National Security State

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 11:00am

The United States has grown a gigantic national security state. According to one analyst, our overall annual security budget is now more than $1.2 trillion. And we now know that includes at least $75 billion for “intelligence.” In the wake of Edward…

A Guide to What We Now Know About the NSA's Dragnet Searches of Your Communications

A Guide to What We Now Know About the NSA's Dragnet Searches of Your Communications

By Brett Max Kaufman, Legal Fellow, ACLU National Security Project at 10:39am

Charlie Savage of The New York Times confirmed this week what we have been warning about for years...