Privacy SOS

Warrantless electronic spying up sharply, records show

Today the national ACLU released government records showing that warrantless electronic surveillance by the Department of Justice has skyrocketed over the past few years. You should read their blog describing the revelations in its entirety. If you don't have time to do so right now, consider what I think are the most important parts of the story:

  • The ACLU shouldn't have had to sue to get these records. The records in question describe warrantless electronic surveillance at DOJ for the years 2009, 2010 and 2011. They were given to Congress as required by law. But then what? Congress sat on them. They should have been posted online immediately.
  • Warrantless electronic surveillance is out of control. The records show that DOJ warrantless spying on metadata (who you call and when, etc.) associated with our phones "increased by 60%, from 23,535 in 2009 to 37,616 in 2011." The numbers for internet metadata surveillance are even worse: "The number of authorizations the Justice Department received to use these devices on individuals’ email and network data increased 361% between 2009 and 2011."
  • These astounding figures only account for DOJ warrantless spying. They don't include spying done by agencies at the Department of Homeland Security, by the military, or by state and local police. New York Congressman Nadler has introduced a bill that would fix this and ensure public disclosure of all of that information; we should support it. Until we know what those other innumerable agencies are doing, we are still in the dark about the real extent of warrantless spying in the United States.
  • Metadata reveals a lot about us, even if it doesn't include the content of our communications. The government is collecting incredibly private information about us without warrants, including the phone numbers of people we call and text message, the email addresses of people we correspond with, and perhaps even the web addresses of the sites we visit. As private investigator Steven Rambam has said, a list of everyone you communicate with tells the government or anyone investigating you a lot about you.

Read more on warrantless spying.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.