President Obama Will Soon Turn Over the Keys to the Surveillance State to President-Elect Trump

On January 20, President Obama will hand Donald Trump the keys to the surveillance state. Not only will Trump have the NSA’s incredibly powerful technological tools at his disposal, but he’ll also have the benefit of the overbroad and unconstitutional surveillance authorities embraced by the Obama administration — authorities that give tremendous discretion to executive branch officials.

These spying powers have long been cause for concern because they violate our core rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of association. But when wielded by a man who invited Russia to hack his political opponent, who reportedly eavesdropped on his own hotel guests, and who has called for expanded surveillance of Americans and especially American Muslims, they are all the more frightening. Fortunately, there are several ways to fight back against the surveillance state, including concrete steps you can take to protect yourself and your communications.  

Here are two of the sweeping surveillance powers that President Obama is going to hand over to President Trump:

Executive Order 12333 is the primary authority under which the NSA conducts surveillance, and it encompasses a dizzying array of warrantless, high-tech spying programs. While much of this spying occurs outside the United States and is ostensibly directed at foreigners, vast quantities of Americans’ communications are nonetheless vacuumed up in the dragnet. That’s because, in today’s interconnected world, Americans’ communications are frequently sent, routed, or stored abroad — where they may be collected, often in bulk, in the course of the NSA’s spying activities.

For example, according to recent news reports, the NSA has relied on Executive Order 12333 to:

Despite its breadth, surveillance under Executive Order 12333 is not subject to meaningful oversight by the courts or by Congress.

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the government to warrantlessly monitor Americans’ international emails, web-browsing activities, and phone calls with the assistance of companies like Facebook, Google, AT&T, and Verizon. The government relies on Section 702 to carry out mass surveillance on U.S. soil, including both the “PRISM” and “Upstream” programs revealed by Edward Snowden.

These spying powers have long been cause for concern because they violate our core rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and freedom of association.

The law permits the government to spy on communications when one party to a phone call or internet communication is a foreigner abroad targeted by intelligence officials — even if an American is on the other end of the line. Surveillance under Section 702 may be conducted for many purposes — not just counterterrorism — and it may target people who are not suspected of any wrongdoing whatsoever.

The government collects hundreds of millions of communications under this law, which are then stored in NSA, CIA, and FBI databases. Despite the fact that the government obtains these communications without warrants, it still uses them in ordinary criminal investigations, betraying one of the core purposes of the Fourth Amendment.

The ACLU is currently challenging Section 702 surveillance in civil and criminal cases, and we’re also litigating Freedom of Information Act suits to learn more about how the government interprets and implements its surveillance powers.

In the meantime, what can you do to protect yourself against these spying activities and others? There are a number of basic steps you can take to improve your digital privacy and safeguard your data. At a minimum, we recommend that you:

  • Use messaging and phone apps that employ end-to-end encryption
  • Promptly install software updates to patch vulnerabilities
  • Use two-factor authentication to protect your most important online accounts
  • Password-protect your phone.

We’ve described these steps and others in greater detail here. The Intercept has also recently published a guide to surveillance self-defense.

We also urge you to get involved in the political process. For instance, Section 702 is set to expire next year, and Congress is already holding hearings on reauthorization. By signing up for ACLU action alerts, you can easily reach out to legislators as they consider whether to rein in President Trump’s NSA.

While there are still many unknowns about the Trump administration, one thing is clear: In the coming months, we’ll need you standing alongside us in the fight for surveillance reform.  

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Barbara

Why is there not a call for a full investigation into the Trump, Putin, Wikileaks conspiracy? Why is the ACLU not insisting on the full constitutional rights of the American People? The Constitution is very clear and makes no provisions for Dictator. Things seem to be moving vigorously towards a complete takeover of the government of the United States of America and the United States people. Please help to protect our rights keep Trump out of the White House. Seems to me there's plenty of things he could be charged with there are treasonous. The people are fearful of his administration and if what he plans to do to us as a nation. This violates my constitutional rights to live in the United States without fear from my government who has to take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution of the United States of America. I wish somebody would step up and do their due diligence and insist on a full and comprehensive investigation.

SCS

The ACLU is already quite consistent in demanding constitutional rights. I would further suggest that people are also fearful because the truth revealed about our government thus far is very hard to take. Why aren't you complaining about the violations of your constitutional rights that have already taken place? Because of the actions of Edward Snowden, we've known about the activities of the NSA for some time. In fact, I daresay we knew this when the Patriot Act was passed but largely chose to be gullible and trust our government. So tell me: do prior administrations, along with others who are still serving, get a free pass while we attack someone who has yet to be sworn in? Likewise, you overlook the revelations in Wikileaks and want an investigation as how they obtained the leaks. That's a red herring. What was revealed in all of these revelations is that there are two sets of standards: one for us and another for them. I therefore would strongly suggest to you that we already live in a dictatorship and the depth of the corruption in our government is clear enough. Further revelations will certainly bring clarity, but punishing whistleblowers smacks of the totalitarianism that you fear. I am now loathe to believe a single word coming from any of them, least of all their claim that Russia is involved in the latest Wikileaks. If it was an inside job, Which I am inclined to believe, that would certainly explain why they're trying so hard to change the narrative and why they're going bonkers trying to get their hands on Assange.

Anonymous

If you consider it OK under someone you like (e.g. Obama) - maybe you should rethink your position now that it's about to be someone you don't like. Challenging the unconstitutional surveillance (which they've done under the current "dictator") is exactly what you're asking for when pleading to protect your rights. Your rights should be inalienable no matter who is in the White House. This isn't about Trump - it's about the size and scope of the US Government.

Anonymous

Because the Trump Putin connection was invented by the Clintons. How do you not know that?

Anonymous

Thank you. I have gov assistance and was accused by a social worker of being "paranoid" about my phone. I built up the remains of fragmented files on a 286 by instaliing DOS 5.0 back in the 90's. Ifound my calling and using checkdisk and .EXE & .COM buil

Anonymous

How is it due process to convict Trump months before he has been inaugurated for a chance to make a misstep you can pounce on?
NSA? The NSA Obama continued for 8 years? A president for the past 8 years is untouchable from criticism? Those rights you're committed to fighting to uphold weren't important until now? Obama? Oh that's ok! And for the next couple months of his presidency, we have no problem.
Trump? He isn't actually inaugurated yet. But our every waking moment is dedicated to nailing him if he even makes the misstep of continuing Obama's policies. Now they are intolerable. Because we liked Obama. We are going to find anything to kick Trump out of office just because now it suddenly matters?
Thanks for upholding democracy and the constitution, plus shamelessly playing favorites. You don't give a shit about the constitution. It is a weapon for political leverage and denying everyone their right to vote and elect a president.
What is wrong with you people? Are you evil?
Imagine a single isolated protest immediately after Obama was elected? How insanely militant would the reaction be?
But oh poor babies are hurt and throwing a tantrum. Suddenly now it's ok to assault people in the street and vandalize businesses cause we are just mad?
You know what? I'm glad that despite all the corrupt MSM, dishonest actors like the ACLU, the violent oppression perpetrated by BLM, and the silencing of voices for daring to vote on the side you opposed, was rejected by the people who stood up for their rights you thought you could deny.
The ACLU is corrupt to the core! Just check out their main page and their orchestrated efforts to overthrow a democratic election. Oh yes! They are collecting donations to OVERTHROW OUR DEMOCRACY. That election is in their crosshairs to deny our results. Intimidation, threats of violence, civil unrest, random vandalization, looting, nothing is too illegal or oppressive to be left off the table and enthusiastically supported by the ACLU.
Screw the law. I guess all the people were dupes in the past who prepared for the next legal democratically held election to honestly convince voters to support their campaign. The future is strong-armed violent hissy fits endorsed and funded by the ACLU!
Nope! That's for you dumb ass law-abiding respectful idiots.
Was I so stupid to believe the ACLU ever gave a damn about anyone's civil rights or the Constitution? Embarrassingly yes.
Your integrity and honesty is a bald ass lie!

Anonymous

If you think that the ACLU has not been fighting unlawful surveillance under the Obama administration then I regret to inform you that you have not been paying close enough attention - you may want to look up Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA for a start. Many cases against the mass surveillance programs have met with the issue of "standing" (in other words, sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged) and are undergoing the arduous process of appeal. Personally, I think it's reasonable for the ACLU to already be on guard with an individual coming into the presidency who reportedly has a history of eavesdropping on people in his business life (his hotel in Mar-a-Lago) IN ADDITION TO the surveillance state he will be inheriting (as laid out in the article to which you are replying), PLUS all of the many policies he has proposed which are unconstitutional AND his myriad conflicts of interest which WILL compromise our democracy.

Oh, by the way, people did "protest", in their own way, when Obama was elected president. How soon we forget all the cross-burning, nooses (threats of lynching), and constant demands for his birth certificate!

Anonymous

The obstruction during President Obama's Term was simply a matter of don't let the first Black President look good. It was pure racist from the beginning. My Republican Governor Deal decided not to take the Medicaid funds that were due from the Federal Government. That was class A in Obstruction. Poor people would be helped with that. Oh, any Job Bill, that would fix our infrastructure. Nope. Can't make the half Black President look good! Now with Trump slowly getting ready. What can we respect about him? A liar and a pussygrabber in Chief! 3 wives trailing along behind him. No. I didn't vote for that POS. I'm educated. Good luck to the middle class. Trump is suddenly looking his age and he looks scared too!

Anonymous

Trump is old and he looks scared.

Anonymous

WOW

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