Privacy Media Articles
Excerpts of Key Privacy Media Articles from Major Media
Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important privacy articles reported in the mainstream media suggesting a cover-up.
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For an index to revealing excerpts of media articles on several dozen engaging topics, click here
Satellite-Surveillance Program to Begin Despite Privacy Concerns
2008-10-01, Wall Street Journal
The Department of Homeland Security will proceed with the first phase of a controversial satellite-surveillance program, even though an independent review found the department hasn't yet ensured the program will comply with privacy laws. Congress provided partial funding for the program in a little-debated $634 billion spending measure that will fund the government until early March. For the past year, the Bush administration had been fighting Democratic lawmakers over the spy program, known as the National Applications Office. The program is designed to provide federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery.
Since the department proposed the program a year ago, several Democratic lawmakers have said that turning the spy lens on America could violate Americans' privacy and civil liberties unless adequate safeguards were required. A new [but classified] 60-page Government Accountability Office report said the department "lacks assurance that NAO operations will comply with applicable laws and privacy and civil liberties standards." The report cites gaps in privacy safeguards. The department, it found, lacks controls to prevent improper use of domestic-intelligence data by other agencies and provided insufficient assurance that requests for classified information will be fully reviewed to ensure it can be legally provided. But the bill Congress approved, which President George W. Bush signed into law Tuesday, allows the department to launch a limited version.
Note: For many reports from major media sources of disturbing threats to privacy, click here.
Feds give customs agents free hand to seize travelers' documents
2008-09-24, Feds give customs agents free hand to seize travelers' documents
The Bush administration has overturned a 22-year-old policy and now allows customs agents to seize, read and copy documents from travelers at airports and borders without suspicion of wrongdoing, civil rights lawyers in San Francisco said Tuesday in releasing records obtained in a lawsuit. The records also indicate that the government gives customs agents unlimited authority to question travelers about their religious beliefs and political opinions, said lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They said they had asked the Department of Homeland Security for details of any policy that would guide or limit such questioning and received no reply. "We're concerned that people of South Asian or Muslim-looking background are being targeted inappropriately" for questioning and searches, said Asian Law Caucus attorney Shirin Sinnar. The Bay Area legal groups filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the government in February, seeking documents on the policies that govern searches and questioning of international travelers. The organizations said they had received more than 20 complaints in the previous year, mostly from South Asians and Muslims. The travelers said customs agents regularly singled them out when they returned from abroad, looked at their papers and laptop computers, and asked them such questions as whom they had seen on their trips, whether they attended mosques and whether they hated the U.S. government.
Note: For many reports from major media sources of rising threats to civil liberties, click here.
Agency and Bush Are Sued Over Domestic Surveillance
2008-09-18, New York Times
A privacy group filed a class-action lawsuit on Thursday against the National Security Agency, President Bush and other officials, seeking to halt what it describes as illegal surveillance of Americans’ telephone and Internet traffic. The lawsuit parallels a legal action brought against the AT&T Corporation in 2006 by the same nonprofit group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, charging that the company gave the N.S.A. access to its communications lines and customer records without proper warrants. Congress derailed that lawsuit this year by passing legislation granting immunity to telecommunications companies that had provided assistance to the agency, though the foundation has said it intends to challenge the constitutionality of the new law. A lawyer with the foundation, Kevin S. Bankston, said the new suit opened a “second front” against a “massively illegal fishing expedition through AT&T’s domestic networks and databases of customer records.” When Mr. Bush started the program in late 2001, the N.S.A. began eavesdropping inside the United States without court warrants for the first time since 1978, when Congress created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to oversee such intelligence collection. The suit’s plaintiffs are five AT&T customers, but it is filed on behalf of all customers. Like the 2006 suit, it is based in part on information from Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who says he saw what he believed to be equipment installed by the N.S.A. at a company communications hub in San Francisco allowing the agency to filter a huge volume of Internet traffic.
Note: For many disturbing reports from major media sources of threats to privacy, click here.
A New Rush to Spy
2008-08-22, New York Times
There is apparently no limit to the Bush administration’s desire to invade Americans’ privacy in the name of national security. According to members of Congress, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is preparing to give the F.B.I. broad new authority to investigate Americans — without any clear basis for suspicion that they are committing a crime. Opening the door to sweeping investigations of this kind would be an invitation to the government to spy on people based on their race, religion or political activities. Mr. Mukasey has not revealed the new guidelines. But according to senators whose staff have been given limited briefings, the rules may also authorize the F.B.I. to use an array of problematic investigative techniques. Among these are pretext interviews, in which agents do not honestly represent themselves while questioning a subject’s neighbors and work colleagues. The F.B.I. has a long history of abusing its authority to spy on domestic groups, including civil rights and anti-war activists, and there is a real danger that the new rules would revive those dark days. Clearly, the Bush administration cannot be trusted to get the balance between law enforcement and civil liberties right. It has repeatedly engaged in improper and illegal domestic spying — notably in the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program. The F.B.I. and the White House no doubt want to push the changes through before a new president is elected. There is no reason to rush to adopt rules that have such important civil liberties implications.
Internet Providers' New Tool Raises Deep Privacy Concerns
2008-08-21, Washington Post
If you're reading this story on our Web site, I don't know what you did online before you reached this page. But your Internet provider might if it engages in something called deep packet inspection. That phrase may sound like what the Transportation Security Administration does to uncooperative airline passengers, but on the Internet it means a thorough and automatic inspection of online traffic -- not just where you've been but also what you've seen. Peering inside the digital packets of data zipping across the Internet -- in real time, for tens of thousands of users at once -- was commercially impractical until recently. But the ceaseless march of processing power has made it feasible. Unsurprisingly, companies have been trying to turn this potential into profit. By tracking users' Web habits this closely, they can gain a much more detailed picture of their interests -- and then display precisely targeted, premium-priced ads. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently asked dozens of providers to explain whether they had done any such testing. Most companies said they had yet to try the technology and had no plans to do so. (Although AT&T allowed that "if done properly," deep packet inspection "could prove quite valuable to consumers.") Taking these companies at their word, what's there to worry about? Systems such as deep packet inspection unnerve a lot of Internet users for sound reasons. One is, of course, the immensely greater surveillance they allow. Another concern is the difficulty of circumventing this constant tracking. The machinery of deep packet inspection hides out of reach in your provider's servers.
Citizens' U.S. Border Crossings Tracked
2008-08-20, Washington Post
The federal government has been using its system of border checkpoints to greatly expand a database on travelers entering the country by collecting information on all U.S. citizens crossing by land, compiling data that will be stored for 15 years and may be used in criminal and intelligence investigations. The Border Crossing Information system, disclosed last month by the Department of Homeland Security in a Federal Register notice, ... reflects the growing number of government systems containing personal information on Americans that can be shared for a broad range of law enforcement and intelligence purposes, some of which are exempt from some Privacy Act protections. While international air passenger data has long been captured this way, Customs and Border Protection agents only this year began to log the arrivals of all U.S. citizens across land borders, through which about three-quarters of border entries occur. The volume of people entering the country by land prevented compiling such a database until recently. But the advent of machine-readable identification documents, which the government mandates eventually for everyone crossing the border, has made gathering the information more feasible. Critics say the moves exemplify efforts by the Bush administration in its final months to cement an unprecedented expansion of data gathering for national security and intelligence purposes. The data could be used beyond determining whether a person may enter the United States. For instance, information may be shared with foreign agencies when relevant to their hiring or contracting decisions.
U.S. May Ease Police Spy Rules
2008-08-16, Washington Post
The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years. Law enforcement agencies would be allowed to target groups as well as individuals, and to launch a criminal intelligence investigation based on the suspicion that a target is engaged in terrorism or providing material support to terrorists. They also could share results with a constellation of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and others in many cases. Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the proposed rule may [permit] police to collect intelligence even when no underlying crime is suspected. German, an FBI agent for 16 years, said easing established limits on intelligence-gathering would lead to abuses against peaceful political dissenters. He pointed to reports in the past six years that undercover New York police officers infiltrated protest groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention; that California state agents eavesdropped on peace, animal rights and labor activists; and that Denver police spied on Amnesty International and others before being discovered. "If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information," German said. "It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government."
Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to civil liberties from reliable sources, click here.
Civil liberties: Outrage at New York police plan to track vehicles
2008-08-14, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
The Big Apple is turning into Big Brother, civil liberties groups have warned in response to a new plan from New York city's police chiefs to photograph every vehicle entering Manhattan and hold the details on a massive database. As well as placing cameras at all tunnels and bridges into Manhattan, the 36-page plan, called Operation Sentinel, calls for a security ring to be erected at Ground Zero and for a 50-mile buffer zone around the city within which mobile units would search for nuclear or "dirty" bombs. [The] 3,000 cameras that could be mounted as a result of the plans of the New York police ... have provoked outrage in the United States. Donna Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the idea of tracking the movements of millions of people was "an assault on the country's historical respect for the right to privacy and the freedom to be left alone". The NYCLU is pressing the New York police to release further details of its intentions under freedom of information laws. The toughest element of the scheme relates to preparations to secure Ground Zero once the six-hectare site is rebuilt and open to the public again. Those measures include moveable roadblocks, security cameras across lower Manhattan and an underground bomb-screening centre through which all delivery vehicles would have to pass. The plan to video the number plates of every vehicle would be applied to all points of entry into Manhattan, including the main Brooklyn-Battery, Holland, Lincoln and Midtown tunnels and Brooklyn, Manhattan and other bridges.
Note: For lots more on threats to privacy from major media sources, click here.
FBI plans to loosen post-Watergate FBI rules
2008-08-13, Minneapolis Star-Tribune/McClatchy News Service
Attorney General Michael Mukasey confirmed plans ... to loosen post-Watergate restrictions on the FBI's national security and criminal investigations. Mukasey said he expected criticism of the new rules because "they expressly authorize the FBI to engage in intelligence collection inside the United States." The Justice Department ... is expected to publicly release the final version within several more weeks. Even then, portions are expected to remain classified for national security reasons. Nonetheless, Mukasey provided enough detail Wednesday to alarm civil libertarians. Michael German, a former veteran FBI agent who is now policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said if Mukasey moves ahead with the new rules as he describes them, he'll be weakening restrictions originally put in place after the Watergate scandal to rein in the FBI's domestic Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO. "I'm concerned with the way the attorney general frames the problem," German said. "He talks about 'arbitrary or irrelevant differences' between criminal and national security investigations but these were corrections originally designed to prevent the type of overreach the FBI engaged in for years." German said recent events demonstrated that Mukasey needed to strengthen the FBI's guidelines, not "water them down. ... What the attorney general is doing is expanding the bureau's intelligence collection without addressing the mismanagement within the FBI. If you have an agency collecting more with less oversight, it's only going to get worse."
Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to civil liberties from reliable sources, click here.
Police Turn to Secret Weapon: GPS Device
2008-08-13, Washington Post
Across the country, police are using GPS devices to snare [criminal suspects], often without a warrant or court order. Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and is another step toward George Orwell's Big Brother society. With the ... ever-declining cost of the technology, many analysts believe that police will increasingly rely on GPS ... and that the public will hear little about it. "I've seen them in cases from New York City to small towns -- whoever can afford to get the equipment and plant it on a car," said John Wesley Hall, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "And of course, it's easy to do. You can sneak up on a car and plant it at any time." Details on how police use GPS usually become public when the use of the device is challenged in court. Leibig said GPS should be held to a different standard because it provides greater detail. "While it may be true that police can conduct surveillance of people on a public street without violating their rights, tracking a person everywhere they go and keeping a computer record of it for days and days without that person knowing is a completely different type of intrusion," he said. Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, considers GPS monitoring, along with license plate readers, toll transponders and video cameras with face-recognition technology, part of the same trend toward "an always-on, surveillance society."
Note: For lots more on threats to privacy from major media sources, click here.
Some Web Firms Say They Track Behavior Without Explicit Consent
2008-08-12, Washington Post
Several Internet and broadband companies have acknowledged using targeted-advertising technology without explicitly informing customers, according to letters released yesterday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The revelations came in response to a bipartisan inquiry of how more than 30 Internet companies might have gathered data to target customers. Some privacy advocates and lawmakers said the disclosures help build a case for an overarching online-privacy law. "Increasingly, there are no limits technologically as to what a company can do in terms of collecting information . . . and then selling it as a commodity to other providers," said committee member Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). "Our responsibility is to make sure that we create a law that, regardless of the technology, includes a set of legal guarantees that consumers have with respect to their information." Markey said he and his colleagues plan to introduce legislation next year, a sort of online-privacy Bill of Rights, that would require that consumers must opt in to the tracking of their online behavior and the collection and sharing of their personal data. Ari Schwartz, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said lawmakers are beginning to understand the convergence across platforms. "People are starting to see: 'Oh, we have these different industries that are collecting the same types of information to profile individuals and the devices they use on the network," he said. "Internet. Cellphones. Cable. Any way you tap into the network, concerns are raised."
Note: For lots more on increasing threats to privacy from reliable sources, click here.
Prescription Data Used To Assess Consumers
2008-08-04, Washington Post
Health and life insurance companies have access to a powerful new tool for evaluating whether to cover individual consumers: a health "credit report" drawn from databases containing prescription drug records on more than 200 million Americans. Collecting and analyzing personal health information in commercial databases is a fledgling industry, but one poised to take off as the nation enters the age of electronic medical records. Some insurers have already begun testing systems that tap into not only prescription drug information, but also data about patients held by clinical and pathological laboratories. Privacy and consumer advocates fear [the trend] it is taking place largely outside the scrutiny of federal health regulators and lawmakers. The practice also illustrates how electronic data gathered for one purpose can be used and marketed for another -- often without consumers' knowledge, privacy advocates say. And they argue that although consumers sign consent forms, they effectively have to authorize the data release if they want insurance. "As health care moves into the digital age, there are more and more companies holding vast amounts of patients' health information," said Joy Pritts, research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "Most people don't even know these [companies] exist. Unfortunately the federal health privacy rule does not cover many of them." Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "We've got to stop these practices before the marketplace is fully developed and patients lose all control over their medical information."
Note: For lots more on increasing threats to privacy from reliable sources, click here.
Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border: No Suspicion Required
2008-08-01, Washington Post
Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed. Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin. DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies ... apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens. Civil liberties and business travel groups have pressed the government to disclose its procedures as an increasing number of international travelers have reported that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices had been taken -- for months, in at least one case -- and their contents examined. The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover "all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "
Note: For many reports from reliable, verifiable sources on threats to privacy, click here.
Prosecutor turned up on U.S. terror watch list
2008-07-14, USA Today/Associated Press
The Justice Department's former top criminal prosecutor says the U.S. government's terror watch list likely has caused thousands of innocent Americans to be questioned, searched or otherwise hassled. Former Assistant Attorney General Jim Robinson would know: he is one of them. Robinson joined [with] the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday to urge fixing the list that's supposed to identify suspected terrorists. "It's a pain in the neck, and significantly interferes with my travel arrangements," said Robinson, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division during the Clinton administration. He believes his name matches that of someone who was put on the list in early 2005, and is routinely delayed while flying — despite having his own government top-secret security clearances renewed last year. He [said] "I expect my story is similar to hundreds of thousands of people who are on this list who find themselves inconvenienced." [The watch list] was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to consolidate 12 existing lists. Audits of the watch list over the last several years ... have concluded that it has mistakenly flagged innocent people whose names are similar to those on it. More than 30,000 airline passengers had asked the Homeland Security Department to clear their names from the list as of October 2006. The ACLU predicted the watch list would include 1 million names as early as Monday. The civil liberties group reached that number by citing the 700,000 records on the watch list as of last September and adding 20,000 names each month, as forecast by the Justice Department's inspector general.
Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.
Civil liberties group criticizes new FBI authority
2008-07-02, Boston Globe/Associated Press
Nearly 40 years ago, the FBI was roundly criticized for investigating Americans without evidence [that] they had broken any laws. Now, critics fear the FBI may be gearing up to do it again. Tentative Justice Department guidelines, to be released later this summer, would let agents investigate people whose backgrounds -- and potentially their race or ethnicity -- match the traits of terrorists. Such profiling ... echoes the FBI's now-defunct COINTELPRO, an operation under Director J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950s and 1960s to monitor and disrupt groups with communist and socialist ties. Before it was shut down in 1971, the domestic spying operation -- formally known as Counterintelligence Programs -- had expanded to include civil rights groups, anti-war activists, ... state legislators and journalists. Among the FBI's targets were Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John Lennon, along with members of black [political] groups ... and student protesters. The new proposal to allow investigations of Americans with no evidence of wrongdoing is "COINTELPRO for the 21st century," said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union. "But this is much more insidious because it could involve more people. In the days of COINTELPRO, they were watching only a few people. Now they could be watching everyone."
Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.
The Business of Intelligence Gathering
2008-06-15, New York Times
America is ruled by an “intelligence-industrial complex” whose allegiance is not to the taxpaying public but to a cabal of private-sector contractors. That is the central thesis of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing by Tim Shorrock, ... an investigative journalist. His book [provides a] disturbing overview of the intelligence community, also known as “the I.C.” Mr. Shorrock says our government is outsourcing 70 percent of its intelligence budget, or more than $42 billion a year, to a “secret army” of corporate vendors. Because of accelerated privatization efforts after 9/11, these companies are participating in covert operations and intelligence-gathering activities that were considered “inherently governmental” functions reserved for agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency, he says. Some of the book’s most intriguing assertions concern the permeating influence of the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. In 2006, Mr. Shorrock reports, Booz Allen amassed $3.7 billion in revenue, much of which came from classified government contracts exempt from public oversight. Among its more than 18,000 employees are R. James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, and Joan Dempsey, a former longtime United States intelligence official who declared in a 2004 speech, “I like to refer to Booz Allen as the shadow I.C.” The “revolving door” between Booz Allen and the I.C. is personified by Mike McConnell, who joined the firm after serving as head of the National Security Agency under President Bill Clinton, only to return as director of national intelligence under President Bush.
Note: For revealing reports on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.
Unmarked chopper patrols New York City from above
2008-05-24, CBS News/Associated Press
On a cloudless spring day, the NYPD helicopter soars over the city, its sights set on the Statue of Liberty. A dramatic close-up of Lady Liberty's frozen gaze fills one of three flat-screen computer monitors mounted on a console. Hundreds of sightseers below are oblivious to the fact that a helicopter is peering down on them from a mile and a half away. "They don't even know we're here," said crew chief John Diaz, speaking into a headset over the din of the aircraft's engine. The helicopter's unmarked paint job belies what's inside: an arsenal of sophisticated surveillance and tracking equipment powerful enough to read license plates — or scan pedestrians' faces — from high above the nation's largest metropolis. "It looks like just another helicopter in the sky," said Assistant Police Chief Charles Kammerdener, who oversees the department's aviation unit. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said that no other U.S. law enforcement agency "has anything that comes close" to the surveillance chopper, which was designed by engineers at Bell Helicopter and computer technicians based on NYPD specifications. The $10 million helicopter is just part of the department's efforts to adopt cutting-edge technology for its [surveillance] operations. The NYPD also plans to spend tens of millions of dollars strengthening security in the lower Manhattan business district with a network of closed-circuit television cameras and license-plate readers posted at bridges, tunnels and other entry points. Civil rights advocates are skeptical about the push for more surveillance, arguing it reflects the NYPD's evolution into ad hoc spy agency.
Note: For many important reports on disturbing threats to privacy, click here.
Online warfare research outlined
2008-05-15, Washington Times
Procurement documents released by the U.S. Air Force give a rare glimpse into Pentagon plans for developing an offensive cyber-war capacity that can infiltrate, steal data from and, if necessary, take down enemy information-technology networks. The Broad Area Announcement, posted ... by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Information Directorate, outlines a two-year, $11 million effort to develop capabilities to "access ... any remotely located open or closed computer information systems," lurk on them "completely undetected," "stealthily exfiltrate information" from them and ultimately "be able to affect computer information systems through Deceive, Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, Destroy (D5) effects." "Of interest," the announcement says, "are any and all techniques to enable user and/or root-level access to both fixed [and] mobile computing platforms ... [and] methodologies to enable access to any and all operating systems, patch levels, applications and hardware." The announcement is the latest stage in the Air Force's effort to develop a cyber-war capability and establish itself as the service that delivers U.S. military power in cyberspace. Last year, the Air Force announced it was setting up a Cyberspace Command ... and was developing military doctrine for the prosecution of cyber-war operations. The developments highlight the murky legal territory on which the cyber-wars of the future will be fought. More important, because of the difficulties in identifying attackers and immediately quantifying damage from a cyber-attack, it can be hard to determine when such attacks constitute an act of war as opposed to crime or even vandalism.
Domestic spying far outpaces terrorism prosecutions
2008-05-12, Los Angeles Times
The number of Americans being secretly wiretapped or having their financial and other records reviewed by the government has continued to increase as officials aggressively use powers approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of terrorism prosecutions ending up in court -- one measure of the effectiveness of such sleuthing -- has continued to decline, in some cases precipitously. The trends, visible in new government data and a private analysis of Justice Department records, are worrisome to civil liberties groups and some legal scholars. They say it is further evidence that the government has compromised the privacy rights of ordinary citizens without much to show for it. The Bush administration has been seeking to expand its ability to gather intelligence without prior court approval. The [Justice] department ... reported a sharp rise in the use of national security letters by the FBI -- from 9,254 in 2005 to 12,583 in 2006, the latest data available. The letters seek customer information from banks, Internet providers and phone companies. They have caused a stir because consumers do not have a right to know that their information is being disclosed and the letters are issued without court oversight. Civil liberties groups say the new data reveal a disturbing consequence of the government's post-Sept. 11 expanded surveillance capabilities. "The number of Americans being investigated dwarfs any legitimate number of actual terrorism prosecutions, and that is extremely troubling," said Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, a Washington-based civil liberties group.
Note: For many reports from major media sources that question the reality of the "terror" threat, click here.
FBI Backs Off From Secret Order for Data After Lawsuit
2008-05-08, Washington Post
The FBI has withdrawn a secret administrative order seeking the name, address and online activity of a patron of the Internet Archive after the San Francisco-based digital library filed suit to block the action. It is one of only three known instances in which the FBI has backed off from such a data demand, known as a "national security letter," or NSL, which is not subject to judicial approval and whose recipient is barred from disclosing the order's existence. NSLs are served on phone companies, Internet service providers and other electronic communications service providers, but because of the gag order provision, the public has little way to know about them. FBI officials now issue about 50,000 such orders a year. The order against the Internet Archive was served Nov. 26, and the nonprofit challenged it based on a provision of the reauthorized USA Patriot Act, which protects libraries from such requests. The privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation represented the archive in the suit, which was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union. The archive also alleged that the gag order that accompanied the data demand violated the Constitution. As part of their settlement, the FBI agreed to drop the gag order and the archive agreed to withdraw the complaint. The case was unsealed Monday. Yesterday, redacted versions of key documents were filed, allowing the parties to discuss the case. "We see this as an unqualified success," said Brewster Kahle, the archive's co-founder and digital librarian. "The goal here was to help other recipients of NSLs to understand that you can push back."
Note: The Internet Archive has now posted excellent information on how to deal with cases like this at http://government.zdnet.com/?p=3795. Three cheers for the Internet Archive!