Government Secrecy

Annotated: The Most Important Passage from President Obama's NSA Speech

Annotated: The Most Important Passage from President Obama's NSA Speech

By Alex Abdo, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 4:41pm

President Obama just gave a landmark speech about NSA surveillance and the future of digital privacy...

Ready, fire, aim: Ohio officials implement statewide face recognition program without a whiff of public debate

Ready, fire, aim: Ohio officials implement statewide face recognition program without a whiff of public debate

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 4:16pm

Two months ago, the state government in Ohio secretly implemented a face recognition program using the drivers’ license database to check against mug shots and images of suspects, a local newspaper has learned. Using public records law to obtain…

The Government is Silencing Twitter and Yahoo, and It Won't Tell Us Why

The Government is Silencing Twitter and Yahoo, and It Won't Tell Us Why

By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project at 10:07am

The government is using shaky legal arguments to silence major Internet companies without giving them – or the public – the opportunity to respond. In three separate recent cases, the government has sent a grand jury subpoena to Yahoo or Twitter…

J. Edgar Hoover, 1961, photo by Marion S. Trikosko from LOC/wikipedia

How State Secrecy Protects Government Agencies From Embarrassment, Then And Now

By Kade Crockford, Director, ACLU of Massachusetts Technology for Liberty Project at 10:12am

Often when the government wants to keep something secret, it claims that transparency would endanger national security. We’ve been hearing a lot of this lately with regards to Edward Snowden. The leaks have caused “grave harm” to national security…

In Court Today: Challenging the Drone Killings of Three Americans

In Court Today: Challenging the Drone Killings of Three Americans

By Josh Bell, Media Strategist, ACLU at 10:02am

The New York Times published a powerful op-ed yesterday by Nasser Al-Aulaqi about the killing of his grandson Abdulrahman...

Image by Joe_A via Flickr

Federal Court Rules DOJ’s Location Tracking Memos Can Stay Secret

By Brian Hauss, Legal Fellow, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 2:00pm

Yesterday, a federal district court ruled that the Justice Department does not need to disclose two secret memos providing guidance to federal prosecutors and investigators regarding the use of GPS devices and other location tracking technologies.…

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.

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…

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…

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