Government Surveillance

What the FBI Needs to Tell Americans About Its Use of Drones

What the FBI Needs to Tell Americans About Its Use of Drones

By Catherine Crump, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 3:17pm
You've got to hand it to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.): He has become one of the foremost members of Congress fighting for Americans' privacy rights, and has worked doggedly to shed light on how the government is using new technologies to monitor us without our knowledge or consent. Given how difficult it is to get federal law enforcement agencies to comply with their obligation to disclose documents to the public under the Freedom of Information Act — I spend a lot of my time working on just that — it is exceedingly valuable to have someone of Sen. Paul's stature pushing for greater transparency.
The NSA, the Constitution, and Collection vs. Use of Information

The NSA, the Constitution, and Collection vs. Use of Information

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 10:44am

My colleague Alex Abdo has published a nice op-ed in the Guardian this morning on the NSA's dragnet data collection programs, and the Amash Amendment that is currently being considered by the house to curb it. Alex reaches to the heart of the NSA's argument:

The NSA argues that its collection of every American's phone records is constitutional because the agency stores the records in a lockbox and looks at the records only if and when it has a reason to search them. In other words, it claims that the constitution is not concerned with the acquisition of our sensitive data, only with the later searching of it.

This is an extremely dangerous argument. For two centuries, American courts have taken the view that the constitution is concerned with the government's initial intrusion upon privacy, and not only with the later uses to which the government puts the information it has collected. That's why it is unconstitutional for the government, without a warrant, to seize your journal even if it never reads it; to record your phone call even if it never listens to it; or to videotape your bedroom activities even if it never presses play.

Alex also points out that if accepted, there is no limit to the data collection this argument could justify. (See also this post on that point.)

Use of Automated License Plate Readers Expanding in Northern California, and Data is Shared With Feds

Use of Automated License Plate Readers Expanding in Northern California, and Data is Shared With Feds

By Matthew Cagle, Volunteer Attorney, ACLU of Northern California at 10:51am

The feeling of freedom that comes from driving down California’s sunny open roads is at risk—and rising gas prices are not to blame. Our investigations show that at least twenty Northern California law enforcement entities as well as the California…

A Time for Breaking Laws: The Injustice of NSA Surveillance

A Time for Breaking Laws: The Injustice of NSA Surveillance

By Rajkamal Kahlon at 3:00pm

This interview was originally published by Creative Time Reports.

By leaking classified National Security Agency (NSA) documents that prove the existence of large-scale secret surveillance programs, Edward Snowden has answered…

"Limited Only by the Imagination": The Need for Legal Limits on License Plate Reader Use

"Limited Only by the Imagination": The Need for Legal Limits on License Plate Reader Use

By Allie Bohm, Advocacy & Policy Strategist, ACLU at 10:13am

If you've been following our work on license plate readers, by now you know that if you're driving, your license plate is likely being photographed...

NYT: Government Failing to Keep Promises to Supreme Court on Warrantless Wiretapping

NYT: Government Failing to Keep Promises to Supreme Court on Warrantless Wiretapping

By Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 11:09am

Adam Liptak of The New York Times yesterday brought new public attention to the government's troubling failure to make good on its statements to the Supreme Court last fall, in Clapper v. Amnesty. In that case, the Supreme Court rejected the ACLU's…

The NSA's Spying On Americans: Not As "Inadvertent" As It Claims

The NSA's Spying On Americans: Not As "Inadvertent" As It Claims

By Patrick C. Toomey, Staff Attorney, ACLU National Security Project at 10:19am

Another week, another trove of documents detailing the inner secrets of the NSA's massive spying program. Recent revelations have finally provided a look at the procedures that the NSA uses to target and retain communications under the FISA Amendments…

Fighting a Striking Case of Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking

Fighting a Striking Case of Warrantless Cell Phone Tracking

By Bennett Stein, ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project at 4:16pm

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals is currently considering a case that could be pivotal in determining whether the government needs a warrant to track your cell phone. Today the ACLU, together with the ACLU of Maryland, Center for Democracy &…

Misdirection: The House Intelligence Committee’s Misleading Patriot Act Talking Points

Misdirection: The House Intelligence Committee’s Misleading Patriot Act Talking Points

By Michelle Richardson, Legislative Counsel, ACLU Washington Legislative Office at 1:46pm

This week the House Intelligence Committee circulated nine talking points to its members explaining why the dragnet collection of innocent Americans’ call records is both legal and effective at stopping terrorism. After reviewing the document, the ACLU has gone point-by-point, making notes that either refute or raise serious doubts about almost every assertion in the one-pager. Just click on the document below and hover on the red dots to see our comments.

Who Decides?

Who Decides?

By Jay Stanley, Senior Policy Analyst, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project at 9:32am

I’d like to make one major point about the NSA surveillance scandal that many people have made indirectly, or implicitly, or seem to have assumed, but have not stated baldly and explicitly. That point is how this incident has laid bare the arrogance of our national security officials.

Because there are really two separate issues behind last week’s revelations. The first is, how much surveillance of the American people should the government conduct? The second is, who should decide how much surveillance of the American people the government should conduct?

And on that second question, the government has arrogated to itself the power to make that decision, unilaterally, in secret, on behalf of the American people.

In his only comments on this scandal, President Obama said,

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