Post-9/11 Surveillance

The timeline below highlights some of the major surveillance-related developments since 9/11 and the ACLU’s efforts to fight back against suspicionless spying on ordinary Americans.

This fall, Congress is turning its attention to cybersecurity and discussing whether new authorities are necessary to combat crime, terrorism and espionage on the internet. Tell your Representative to oppose cybersecurity legislation that violates Americans' rights.

 

    2001

    • September 11 - Al-Qaeda hijacks four commercial airplanes in coordinated terrorist attack on the U.S.

      Four commercial airplanes are hijacked in a series of coordinated suicide attacks by al-Qaeda on the U.S.

      LEARN MORE:
      A Call to Courage: Reclaiming Our Liberties Ten Years After 9/11
    • October 2 - First version of the Patriot Act introduced in Congress

      The first version of the Patriot Act was introduced into the House as the 'Provide Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (PATRIOT) Act of 2001,' and was later passed by the House as the 'Uniting and Strengthening America (USA) Act' on October 12. This bill was the first anti-terrorism bill to be debated, marked up, and passed in the House. The 'USA PATRIOT Act,' a bill that combined a number of pending bills, was introduced into the House on October 23.

      LEARN MORE:
      USA PATRIOT Act
      Surveillance Under the USA PATRIOT Act
      Read the USA PATRIOT Act
    • October 26 - Patriot Act signed into law

      Passed amid the climate of fear and uncertainty that followed the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the USA Patriot Act fundamentally altered the relationship Americans share with their government by expanding the government's authority to secretly search private records and monitor communications, often without any evidence of wrongdoing.

      LEARN MORE:
      USA PATRIOT Act
      Surveillance Under the USA PATRIOT Act
      Read the USA PATRIOT Act

    2002

    • January 1 - DOJ announces Terrorist Information and Prevention System (TIPS)

      The Department of Justice announces a proposal for Operation TIPS (Terrorist Information and Prevention System), which would have organized workers with access to private citizens' homes, such as cable and telephone installers, to report anything 'suspicious' to the authorities. The program immediately raised comparisons to the East German Stasi, and Congress not only did not approve any funds for this program, but actually passed legislation forbidding the Justice Department from implementing it. It was among the first of many post-9/11 approaches to surveillance that justified spying on innocent citizens whose activity deemed as 'suspicious.'

      LEARN MORE:
      Stop the Government from Turning Neighbor Against Neighbor (2002)
      Operations TIPS Scaled Back, ACLU Still Critical (2002)
    • February 1 - Government's 'CAPPS II' data mining & passenger-profiling project made public

      The media reported that the government is working on a system called CAPPS II, which would pull together a wide array of government and commercial information on each individual who flies, in order to assign them a ranking of their supposed risk to aviation. In July 2004, DHS announced that CAPPS II was being dismantled. The following month, it was replaced by a very similar though somewhat scaled back program called 'Secure Flight' (which was scaled back further in the following years until it consisted basically of a still-problematic watch list check).

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Feature on CAPPS II
      The Seven Problems With CAPPS II
    • May 31 - Attorney General Ashcroft amends the Attorney General's Guidelines governing FBI investigations.

      Despite months of advocacy by the ACLU, Attorney General John Ashcroft authorized changes to the Attorney General's Guidelines that allowed the FBI to conduct investigations of ordinary citizens without any suspicion of wrongdoing. The amended Guidelines permitted the FBI to conduct longer, more intrusive investigations with virtually no oversight, even when they produce no evidence of crime. Months before the new Guidelines were revealed, the ACLU urged the Attorney General not to repeal the long-standing protections originally established by the Levi Attorney General's Guidelines issued in 1976. Days after the troubling new Guidelines were disclosed, the ACLU provided a detailed analysis of the dangers of the relaxed spying standards.

      LEARN MORE:
      Analysis of Changes to Attorney General Guidelines (2002)
      The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement
      Spy Files: FBI
    • July 1 - National Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) established

      The National Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) was established in July 2002 as regional terrorism task forces continued to expand. According to the FBI, over 600 state, local and federal agencies participate in JTTFs across the country, including the U.S. military and, at one point at least, CIA. There are regional JTTFs in 106 cities nationwide, employing approximately 4,400 members - four times larger than before 9/11. Freedom of Information Act requests filed by ACLU affiliates around the country in 2004, 2005, and 2006 revealed that JTTFs have been collecting information about peaceful political activity having nothing to do with terrorism.

      LEARN MORE:
      Spy Files: Joint Terrorism Task Force
      No Real Threat: The Pentagon's Secret Database on Peaceful Protest
      Congressional Research Service Report: The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Terrorism Investigations
    • November 9 - Congress eliminates funding for the Total Information Awareness (TIA) data mining program

      The Total Information Awareness (TIA) program came to public attention and immediately created a public uproar. TIA was a proposed intelligence operation that sought to aggregate Americans' personal information into one giant database that the military and law enforcement could search for 'suspicious activity' related to terrorism. After TIA became public, Americans from across the political spectrum raised their voices in opposition, and Congress shut the program down in September 2003. But, key data-mining elements of TIA were simply moved under the secret umbrella of the NSA.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Technology Expert Tells Congress to Watch the Watchers (2003)
      Q&A on the Pentagon's 'Total Information Awareness' Program (2003)
      Congress Dismantles Total Information Awareness Spy Program; ACLU Applauds Victory, Calls for Continued Vigilance Against Snoop Programs (2003)
      Data Mining (2004)

    2003

    • May 2 - DOD establishes Threat and Local Observations Notice (TALON)

      A highly secretive component of the DOD, the Counterintelligence Field Activity Agency (CIFA), began Threat and Local Observation Notices (TALON), a program to track potential terrorist threats to Department personnel or property within the United States. TALON reports were designed to permit civilians and military personnel to report on suspicious activity near defense installations. Not surprisingly, the DOD soon strayed from this limited mission and TALON became a repository for information about peaceful anti-war protesters and others, even when the 'threat' occurred far from any military installation, and even 'threats' deemed non-credible were never removed from the database. CIFA was disbanded in 2008, but a new office at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) was opened to assume CIFA's 'resources and responsibilities.'

      LEARN MORE:
      No Real Threat: The Pentagon's Secret Database on Peaceful Protest
      Documents Shed New Light on Pentagon Surveillance of Peace Activists
    • May 20 - ACLU joins effort to pass local resolutions opposing the Patriot Act

      In response to the alarming civil liberties violations authorized by the Patriot Act, the ACLU developed the 'Keep America Safe & Free' campaign, which, among other things, helped organize a nationwide effort to pass local resolutions against the law. The campaign resulted in over 400 local, state, and county resolutions around the country were passed calling for reform.

      LEARN MORE:
      MAP: Main Street America Fights Back
      How to Pass a Community Resolution (2003)
    • July 22 - House passes Otter amendment to protect library records

      The Otter amendment to the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2004, passed the House with bipartisan support with a vote of 309-118, after a significant and successful ACLU lobby effort. The amendment prohibited any funds from being used to carry out a 'sneak and peek' search under the Patriot Act. The underlying appropriations bill ultimately never became law.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Letter to Congress Urging Support of the Freedom To Read Amendment to Commerce, Justice, State, and Judiciary Appropriations Bill of 2004 (2003)
      Congress Takes Aim At USA PATRIOT; ACLU Calls Move Giant Win for Civil Liberties (2003)
    • September 24 - Congress eliminates funding for Total Information Awareness (TIA)

      Congress eliminates funding for the Total Information Awareness (TIA), a proposed intelligence operation that sought to aggregate Americans' personal information into one giant database that the military and law enforcement could search for 'suspicious activity' related to terrorism. After TIA became public, Americans from across the political spectrum raised their voices in opposition, and Congress shut the program down. But key data-mining elements of TIA were perpetuated under the secret umbrella of NSA spying.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Technology Expert Tells Congress to Watch the Watchers (2003)
      Q&A on the Pentagon's 'Total Information Awareness' Program (2003)
      Congress Dismantles Total Information Awareness Spy Program; ACLU Applauds Victory, Calls for Continued Vigilance Against Snoop Programs (2003)
      Data Mining (2004)
    • October 23 - ACLU files Freedom of Information Act request about Patriot Act

      In an effort to shed light on the way in which the FBI was implementing and using expanded spying authorities under the Patriot Act, the ACLU filed two requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) seeking records relating to the Justice Department's implementation and use of the new surveillance powers. After a two year legal battle and much stonewalling from the government, the ACLU entered into a settlement agreement with the Justice Department that resulted in the disclosure of records that confirmed that the new law grossly eroded civil liberties.

      The released documents included a copy of the procedural rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC); information about 'Section 215,' which authorizes the government to obtain 'any tangible thing' relevant to a terrorism investigation, even if there is no showing that the 'thing' pertains to suspected terrorists or terrorist activities; and information about the National Security Letter (NSL) provision of the Patriot Act, which dramatically expanded the ability obtain personal customer information from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit companies without prior court approval. The ACLU later filed three more requests for more information about the government's use of NSLs, which have resulted in the disclosure of hundreds of pages, including key documents, about the use of NSLs.

      LEARN MORE:
      PATRIOT FOIA
      USA PATRIOT Act
      What Is Section 215?
      National Security Letters
    • November 25 - Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established

      The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) established, creating a gigantic new institution devoted to preventing terrorism, and sweeping many other agencies with more varied missions (such as the Coast Guard) under that umbrella. DHS combined 22 separate federal agencies, several with law enforcement powers and intelligence missions. As a new member of the Intelligence Community, DHS has struggled to establish a clearly defined role for its intelligence activities, leading at times to error and overreach that implicated the rights of innocent persons.

      LEARN MORE:
      Spy Files: DHS

    2004

    • April 21 - ACLU files first constitutional challenge to National Security Letter provision of Patriot Act

      The Patriot Act dramatically expanded the FBI's authority to use 'National Security Letters' (NSLs) to demand personal customer information from Internet Service Providers, financial institutions and credit companies without prior court approval. Since 2004, the ACLU has filed three lawsuits challenging NSLs in court:
      Doe v. Holder, which resulted in numerous court rulings finding parts of the NSL statute unconstitutional, was settled in August 2010. As a result of the case, the 'John Doe' client, Nicholas Merrill, was finally able to publicly identify himself and his former company as the plaintiffs in the case.
      Library Connection v. Gonzales, involved an NSL served on a consortium of libraries in Connecticut. In September 2006, a federal district court ruled that the gag order on the librarians violated the First Amendment and the government ultimately withdrew both the gag order and its demand for records.
      Internet Archive v. Mukasey, involved an NSL served on a digital library. In April 2008, the FBI withdrew the NSL and the gag order a part of the settlement of a legal challenge brought by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

      LEARN MORE:
      National Security Letters
      USA PATRIOT Act
    • May 1 - DOJ first uses Section 215 'Library Provision' of Patriot Act

      The Department of Justice first used section 215 of the Patriot Act, also known as the 'library provision,' which allows the government to obtain secret court orders for any tangible thing relevant to a terrorism investigation. Since 2004, hundreds of 215 orders have been issued by Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) in violation of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution.

      LEARN MORE:
      What Is Section 215?
      USA PATRIOT Act

    2005

    2006

    • January 27 - ACLU v. NSA - legal challenge to warrantless wiretapping - filed

      The ACLU filed the first legal challenge to the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, charging the government's monitoring of phone calls and emails of people inside the United States without a warrant was unconstitutional. Although a lower court ruled that the program violated the Constitution, the case was ultimately dismissed on the grounds that the plaintiffs -scholars, journalists, and national nonprofit organizations whose work required them to engage in international communications - had no standing to sue because they couldn't show with certainty that they had been wiretapped.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU v. NSA: The Challenge to Illegal Spying
      NSA Spying on Americans Is Illegal (2005)
    • February 1 - ACLU files Freedom of Information Act Request for NSA spying records

      Following news reports in December 2005 that President Bush had authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct warrantless surveillance of Americans, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for documents pertaining to this illegal spying program. Among the documents requested were Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos that supplied the legal justification for the President's decision to authorize warrantless wiretapping in blatant violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), a federal statute that prohibited warrantless wiretapping.

      The ACLU's lawsuit was consolidated with a similar lawsuit filed by the National Security Archive and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

      In March 2011, the government finally released heavily redacted versions of the two of the OLC memos. However, the vast majority of government documents about the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program remain completely secret, and the government has repeatedly refused to release them.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU v. DOJ - Lawsuit to Enforce NSA Warrantless Surveillance FOIA Request
      ACLU v. NSA: The Challenge to Illegal Spying
      NSA Spying on Americans Is Illegal (2005)
    • March 9 - President Bush signs reauthorization of Patriot Act

      A day before 16 provisions of the Patriot Act were set to expire, President Bush signs a reauthorization into law. While the reauthorization made many parts of the law permanent, it left three sections subject to further sunsets.

      LEARN MORE:
      USA PATRIOT Act
    • May 1 - ACLU files lawsuit challenging disclosure of phone records to the NSA without a court order

      The ACLU of Illinois filed a lawsuit against telecom giant AT&T challenging the telecom's disclosure of the contents and records of electronic communications to the NSA without a court order or certification required by federal statutes and the Constitution. The case was filed on behalf of late author Studs Terkel, Dr. Quentin Young, attorney James Montgomery, Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, Professor Diane Geraghty and Rabbi Gary Gerson.

      The case, along with other similar lawsuits against telecomm companies filed in courts across the nation, was consolidated as multi-district litigation and transferred to the federal district court in San Francisco. The ACLU of Illinois, along with lawyers for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was appointed co-lead coordinating counsel for more the more than 35 cases.

      On June 3, 2009, the Judge granted the government's motion to dismiss on the basis of the new immunity provisions of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. The case is on appeal in the Ninth Circuit.



      LEARN MORE:
      Terkel v. AT&T
      New York Times op-ed by Studs Terkel, 'The Wiretap This Time'
      NSA Spying on Americans Is Illegal (2005)

    2007

    • March 1 - DOJ Inspector General released audits on FBI use of Section 215 and NSLs

      The Department of Justice Inspector General released audits of the FBI's use of Section 215 of the Patriot Act and of National Security Letters (NSLs). The reports revealed abuse of both authorities, and a complete vacuum of effective accountability and oversight within the FBI. For example, the NSL report revealed that between 2003 and 2005, the FBI had substantially underreported its use of this authority to Congress, and had actually made 143,074 requests for information - over half of which concerned U.S. persons, many of whom were two or three times removed from subjects of its investigations.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Analysis and Recommendations: Justice Department OIG Report on Misuse of National Security Letters (2007)
      ACLU Calls for Repeal of Expanded Patriot Act Powers in Response to Government Report on Abuses (2007)
      What Is Section 215?
      National Security Letters
      USA PATRIOT Act
    • August 1 - Congress passes the Protect America Act, removing warrant requirement for surveillance of international communications

      Congress passed the Protect America Act, which removed the requirement of a warrant to conduct surveillance on communications when one party is 'reasonably believed' to be outside the United States. Dubbed the 'Police America Act' by the ACLU, the new law authorized massive, untargeted collection of international communications without court order or meaningful oversight by either Congress or the courts, and with virtually no protections for the U.S.-end of the phone call or email.

      LEARN MORE:
      'Protect America Act'
    • August 8 - ACLU files request for information about secret intelligence court that authorizes wiretaps

      In response to the passage of the Protect America Act, a law that vastly expanded the Bush administration's authority to conduct warrantless wiretapping of Americans' international phone calls and e-mails, the ACLU filed a request for documents with the secret intelligence court that authorizes government wiretaps. In an unprecedented order in response to the ACLU's request, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) first ordered the government to respond and produce documents discussing the scope of the government's authority to engage in the secret wiretapping of Americans, only to later announce that it would not make public record or conduct a review to determine whether the legal rulings were properly determined to be classified. Although this decision denied the public the opportunity to learn about the scope of the government's surveillance under the law, notably, the FISC order was only the third time the secret court had ever issued an opinion publicly and the first time it has ruled on a substantive motion made by any party other than the government.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Asks Secret Intelligence Court to Release Orders That Led to 'Emergency' Wiretapping Legislation (2007)
      ACLU Condemns Bush Administration for Opposing Disclosure of FISA Court's Legal Rulings (2007)
    • October 31 - President Bush issues first National Strategy for Information Sharing (NSI)

      President Bush issued the first National Strategy for Information Sharing (NSI). NSI created a federal program and information sharing platform for making and disseminating Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) despite the significant constitutional abuses that had resulted from state and local efforts such as racial profiling and suppression of First Amendment rights on the basis of protected activities like photography. Numerous photographers and videographers have been detained and even arrested by law enforcement as a result of supposed 'suspicious activity.' Additionally, suspicious activity reporting programs are widely reported to have led to increased and unconstitutional racial profiling at airports, and even public places like the Mall of America in Minnesota.

      LEARN MORE:
      Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Program
      Know Your Rights: Photographers
      Filming and Photographing Police
      Article: Law Enforcement Harassment of Photographers
    • November 29 - ACLU files Freedom of Information Act request to learn about cell phone tracking

      The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to learn the details of the government's use of cell phones as tracking devices without a warrant and without showing probable cause. The request came after the Washington Post revealed that federal officials are using Americans' cell phones to pinpoint their location, sometimes without any court oversight. In September 2011, after a four-year legal fight, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the Justice Department to comply with a significant portion of the FOIA request (and ordered other portions to be considered by the District Court).

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU v. Department of Justice: ACLU Lawsuit To Uncover Records of Cell Phone Tracking
      ACLU Seeks Government Records on Use of Cell Phones as Tracking Devices
      Cell Phone Location Tracking Public Records Request
      ACLU Wins Round in Battle Against Warrantless Cell Phone Location Tracking
      Washington Post: Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request (Nov. 23, 2007)

    2008

    • June 1 - NYCLU files lawsuit to access records about 'Operation Darkening Clouds,' a secret FBI data mining program

      The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit to access public records about a secret FBI data mining program known as 'Operation Darkening Clouds,' which is reported to have targeted more than 130,000 immigrants in the lead up to the Iraq war. The program is one of several data mining operations launched by the government since 9/11, which involve the consolidation and analysis of information about individuals not suspected of any wrongdoing. These programs, when revealed to the public, have drawn widespread criticism.

      LEARN MORE:
      NYCLU v. DOJ (Seeking access to Operation Darkening Clouds under FOIA)
    • July 10 - Congress passes the FISA Amendments Act (FAA)

      In July 2008, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008, giving the National Security Agency (NSA) virtually limitless power to spy on Americans' international phone calls and emails. The legislation not only effectively legalized the secret warrantless surveillance program that President Bush had authorized in late 2001, it gave the NSA new power to conduct dragnet surveillance of Americans' international telephone calls and e-mails en masse, without a warrant, without suspicion of any kind, and with only very limited judicial oversight. Less than 24 hours after the bill was signed into law by President Bush, the ACLU filed a lawsuit asking the court to declare the FAA unconstitutional.

      LEARN MORE:
      Amnesty et al. v. Clapper: FISA Amendment Act Challenge
      ACLU Challenges the FISA Amendments Act
      FISA Amendments Act FOIA Request
    • July 10 - ACLU files lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008

      Less than twenty-four-hours after Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008, giving the National Security Agency (NSA) virtually limitless power to spy on Americans' international phone calls and emails, the ACLU files a lawsuit challenging the sweeping new spying power established by the law.

      The case, Amnesty v. Blair, is filed on behalf of a broad coalition of attorneys and human rights, labor, legal and media organizations whose work requires them to engage in sensitive and sometimes privileged telephone and e-mail communications with individuals located outside the United States.



      LEARN MORE:
      Amnesty et al. v. Clapper: FISA Amendment Act Challenge
      ACLU Challenges the FISA Amendments Act
      FISA Amendments Act FOIA Request
    • December 1 - DOJ releases new Attorney General's Guidelines governing FBI investigations

      Attorney General Michael Mukasey further revised the 2002 Attorney General's Guidelines to allow the agency to conduct investigations -- called 'assessments' - of ordinary citizens without any factual basis to suspect that the person engages in wrongdoing or poses a threat to national security. Today, assessments require no evidence of wrongdoing to initiate, yet authorize a host of intrusive investigative techniques including physical surveillance, interviews conducted without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and the use of informants.

      LEARN MORE:
      Fact Sheet - New Attorney General Guidelines
      The Dangers of Domestic Spying by Federal Law Enforcement
      Spy Files: FBI

    2009

    2010

    • March 1 - ACLU files records request for information about eGuardian

      The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about the nationwide eGuardian program, launched in 2009, which is used to collect and share so-called 'Suspicious Activity Reports' (SARs) about people from local, state and federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The government has been using eGuardian to compile data on thousands of Americans' so-called 'suspicious activity,' which could include such innocuous and commonplace activities as using binoculars, taking pictures or video, drawing diagrams and taking notes. SAR programs like eGuardian open the door to racial profiling and other improper police practices precisely because they give police unwarranted discretion to stop people who are not reasonably suspected of wrongdoing and to collect their private information for massive government databases.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Lawsuit Seeks Information from FBI on Nationwide System for Collecting 'Suspicious Activity' Information
      More About Suspicious Activity Reporting
    • July 27 - ACLU files requests in 29 states and D.C. for information about FBI 'racial mapping'

      In a massive information-seeking initiative, ACLU affiliates requested records about the FBI's collection and use of racial and ethnic information to 'map' local communities and target investigations in 31 states and Washington, D.C. According to the FBI operations guidelines, FBI agents have the authority to collect information about and create maps of 'concentrated ethnic communities', 'ethnic-oriented businesses', and so-called ethnic 'behavioral characteristics', 'cultural traditions,' and 'life-style characteristics'. Very little information is available to the public about how the FBI has implemented this authority and whether the FBI mapping program is resulting in illegal profiling based on race, ethnicity, national origin, or religion.

      Between February and June of 2011, ACLU affiliates filed lawsuits in Northern California, New Jersey and Michigan to enforce the information requests.



      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Seeks Records About FBI Collection Of Racial And Ethnic Data In 29 States And D.C.
      ACLU Sues For Records About FBI Collection Of Racial And Ethnic Data In New Jersey
      ACLU Sues For Records About FBI Collection Of Racial And Ethnic Data In Michigan
    • September 1 - ACLU files lawsuit challenging DHS' laptop search policy at the border

      The ACLU, the NYCLU and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) policy of suspicionless searching, copying and detaining travelers' laptops, cell phones and other electronic devices at the border, even when DHS has no reason to believe a search would reveal wrongdoing. The ACLU's lawsuit is filed on behalf of: The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA); NACDL, the largest U.S. organization of defense attorneys; and Pascal Abidor, a 26-year-old dual U.S.-French citizen who had his laptop searched and confiscated at the Canadian border while traveling home to New York on an Amtrak train in May 2010.



      LEARN MORE:
      Abidor v. Napolitano: ACLU Challenges Suspicionless Laptop Border Search Policy
      ACLU v. DHS: Laptop Search FOIA
      ACLU Seeks Records About Laptop Searches At The Border
      Government Data About Searches of International Travelers' Laptops and Personal Electronic Devices

    2011

    • January 5 - Court order requiring Twitter to turn over users' private records unsealed

      In connection with its WikiLeaks investigation, the Department of Justice obtained a secret court order requiring Twitter to turn over the account records of five Twitter users: Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and the ACLU's client, Birgitta Jonsdottir. A federal court subsequently unsealed the order, apparently in response to steps taken by Twitter.

      The ACLU and EFF represent Jonsdottir, an Icelandic parliamentarian, in a legal battle over the government's demands for her Twitter records and in an attempt to unseal any similar secret orders to other Internet companies.

      LEARN MORE:
      Twitter Wikileaks Court Order - News and Background
      Twitter Wikileaks Court Order
    • February 22 - ACLU sues FBI for targeting American Muslims based on religion and infiltrating mosques in Southern California

      The ACLU of Southern California files a federal class action law suit against the FBI for infiltrating mainstream mosques in Southern California and targeting Muslim Americans for surveillance solely because of their religion. For over 14 months between 2006 and 2007, FBI agents planted an informant in the Orange County mosques who posed as a convert to Islam and through whom the FBI collected names, telephone numbers, e-mails, and other information on hundreds of individuals, including Sheikh Yassir Fazaga, Ali Malik, and Yassir Abdel Rahim, plaintiffs in the case. The FBI directed the informant, Craig Monteilh, to gather as much information as possible on members of the Muslim community, and to focus on people who were more devout in their religious practice irrespective of whether any particular individual was believed to be involved in criminal activity.

      The lawsuit, which was filed along with the Council for American-Islamic Relations of Greater Los Angeles, and the law firm Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick LLP, seeks injunctive relief on behalf of all people targeted by the FBI agents and their informant, requiring the FBI to turn over or destroy all information collected through the discriminatory investigation, as well as damages for emotional distress for the three named plaintiffs.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU/SC, CAIR and Hadsell Stormer Keeny Richardson & Renick LLP Sue FBI for Illegal Surveillance in the Muslim Community
    • March 1 - ACLU files Freedom of Information Act request for information about eGuardian

      The ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for information about the eGuardian program, the FBI's nationwide system of collecting and sharing so-called 'Suspicious Activity Reports' from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Launched in 2009, the nationwide eGuardian program allows the FBI to collect information about vague and expansively defined 'suspicious activity' from law enforcement and intelligence officials across the country, as well as from the public. The program appears to give broad discretion to law enforcement officials to monitor and collect information about innocent people engaged in commonplace activities, and to store that data in criminal intelligence files without any evidence of wrongdoing. There are also serious concerns that the system opens the door to racial profiling and other improper practices.

      LEARN MORE:
      ACLU Lawsuit Seeks Information from FBI on Nationwide System for Collecting 'Suspicious Activity' Information
      ACLU Blog of Rights: eGuardian
    • May 13 - ACLU files a lawsuit challenging the suspicionless search and seizure of electronics belonging to David House

      The ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit challenging the suspicionless search and seizure of electronics and personal data belonging to David House, a computer programmer and U.S. citizen. The lawsuit charged that the government targeted Mr. House solely on the basis of his lawful association with the Bradley Manning Support Network when it seized Mr. House's laptop, USB drive and camera, and proceeded to copy and possibly disseminate their contents.



      LEARN MORE:
      House v. Napolitano
      ACLU Sues Homeland Security Over Seizure Of Activist's Computer
    • May 26 - Congress passes a four year extension of three expiring Patriot Act provisions

      Despite bills pending in both the House and the Senate to amend the three expiring provisions and other sections of the Patriot Act, Congress passed a four-year extension of the expiring provisions without making much-needed changes to the overly broad surveillance bill. The extended provisions are set now set to expire on June 1, 2015.

      LEARN MORE:
      USA PATRIOT Act
      Surveillance Under the USA PATRIOT Act
      Read the USA PATRIOT Act
    • May 26 - Senators Wyden and Udall criticize DOJ for secret interpretation of Patriot Act

      As Congress passed a four-year extension of expiring Patriot Act provisions, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall asserted that the Justice Department relies on secret interpretations of the law, enabling domestic surveillance activities that the public and many members of Congress did not understand.

      More»
    • August 3 - ACLU files records requests in 32 states about local law enforcement's cell phone location tracking

      In a massive coordinated information-seeking campaign, 35 ACLU affiliates filed over 381 requests in 32 states with local law enforcement agencies large and small seeking to uncover when, why, and how law enforcement is using cell phone location data to track Americans.

      LEARN MORE:
      Cell Phone Location Tracking Public Records Request
      Map: Is Your Local Law Enforcement Tracking Your Cell Phone's Location?
      Press Release: ACLU Seeks Details on Government Mobile Phone Tracking in Massive Nationwide Information Request
      Blog: Your Cell Phone Knows Where You Were Last Night . . . Who Else Does?
      Blog: You're Getting Warmer . . .
      Blog: How Long Is Your Cell Phone Company Hanging On To Your Data?
    • October 4 - ACLU files amicus brief in United States v. Jones Supreme Court case about GPS tracking

      ACLU filed friend-of-the-court brief in United States v. Jones asking the Supreme Court to hold that the government needs to establish probable cause and obtain a warrant before attaching a GPS device to a person's car and tracking their every move. The lawsuit, dubbed 'the most important Fourth Amendment case in a decade' by The New York Times, is the first case in which the Supreme Court will grapple with the profound impact of new technologies on the privacy that Americans have always enjoyed and expected, and could shape whether the Fourth Amendment's protections from warrantless searches keep pace with new technologies, preserving civil liberties into the 21st Century.

      LEARN MORE:
      Tracked: The Supreme Court Shouldn't Let Technology Trump the Constitution
      Cell Phone Location Tracking Public Records Request
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