Skip to: Content
Skip to: Section Navigation
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

Surveillance in America

| LinksNews |



Resolution on the Use and Abuse of National Security Letters (June 27, 2007)

Spying on Americans (May 2, 2007)

"Suddenly, Mr. Bush is in a hurry. He has submitted a bill that would enact enormous, and enormously dangerous, changes to the 1978 law on eavesdropping. It would undermine the fundamental constitutional principle — over which there can be no negotiation or compromise — that the government must seek an individual warrant before spying on an American or someone living here legally."

National Security Letters Misused (March 12, 2007)

According to "Gonzales, Mueller admit FBI broke law," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller acknowledge that the FBI "broke the law to secretly pry out personal information about Americans. They apologized and vowed to prevent further illegal intrusions." "The FBI's transgressions were spelled out in a damning 126-page audit (PDF; page where link is) by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. He found that agents sometimes demanded personal data on people without official authorization, and in other cases improperly obtained telephone records in non-emergency circumstances."  See also FBI Misused Patriot Act, Justice Department Audit Says and The Significance of the FBI's Law-Breaking.

Why the ADVISE Data-Mining Program May be Very Ill-Advised: Reports of Likely Privacy Violations Point to the Need to Mandate Specific Privacy Safeguards (March 8, 2007)

"According to a recent news story, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may have violated federal privacy laws by using American citizens' data without providing legally-required notice to the public. Reportedly, the data was used to test out a new data-mining program entitled Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement (ADVISE), that could take effect as soon as 2008. ADVISE is being tested via several DHS pilot programs, including one at the Office of Intelligence and Analysis."

New Profiling Program Raises Privacy Concerns (February 28, 2007)

"The Department of Homeland Security is testing a data-mining program that would attempt to spot terrorists by combing vast amounts of information about average Americans, such as flight and hotel reservations. Similar to a Pentagon program killed by Congress in 2003 over concerns about civil liberties, the new program could take effect as soon as next year."

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (December 20, 2006)

"Who will watch the watchers? is posted on Flickr. These are photos of cameras being placed in public, everywhere. See also Every Movement Scrutinized."

Pentagon Using Anti-Terror Resources to Spy on Peace Activists (November 28, 2006)

"More evidence emerged last week showing that the Pentagon has used counterterrorism resources to spy on peace activists."

FBI director wants ISPs to track users (October 17, 2006)

"FBI Director Robert Mueller on Tuesday called on Internet service providers to record their customers' online activities, a move that anticipates a fierce debate over privacy and law enforcement in Washington next year."

Congress Consider Dangerous NSA Bills (September 27, 2006)

"Both Houses of Congress are expected this week to consider partisan bills that would both legalize and expand the President's warrantless wiretapping program, allowing the intelligence agencies to tap the telephone and Internet communications of American citizens without a court order."

NSA's alleged phone-records program puts spotlight on data mining (May 25, 2006)

"The controversy over the National Security Agency's terrorism-related surveillance efforts, including its purported program for collecting domestic telephone data, is shining a spotlight on the esoteric arena of high-end data mining."

"There is no war on crime. There is no war on drugs, no war on terrorism. There is only the ongoing effort by the federal government to collect as much information on as many people as possible."—Jim Redden, author of Snitch Culture: How Citizens Are Turned Into the Eyes and Ears of the State.

"Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us."—Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, "The One Un-American Act." Nieman Reports, vol. 7, no. 1 (Jan. 1953): p. 20.

"Outside, even through the shut window pane, the world looked cold. Down in the street little eddies of wind were whirling dust and torn paper into spirals, and though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no color in anything except the posters that were plastered everywhere. The black-mustachio'd face gazed down from every commanding corner. There was one on the house front immediately opposite. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, the caption said, while the dark eyes looked deep into Winston's own. Down at street level another poster, torn at one corner, flapped fitfully in the wind, alternately covering and uncovering the single word INGSOC. In the far distance a helicopter skimmed down between the roofs, hovered for an instant like a bluebottle, and darted away again with a curving flight. It was the Police Patrol, snooping into people's windows. The patrols did not matter, however. Only the Thought Police mattered."—George Orwell, 1984


C.A.T. Eyes
"The C.A.T. Eye stands for Community Anti-terrorism Training Initiative. The program was developed to assist local communities fight terrorism. This program involves the joint efforts of law enforcement and the community. It is designed to educate the general public on the terrorism, how to detect and report suspected targets, and develop a anti-terrorism, educated, national neighborhood block watch program. The program enhances neighborhood security, heightens the community's power of observation, and to encourages mutual assistance and concern among neighbors."

Central Intelligence Agency
"The proposal, which was beaten back, would have given the C.I.A. and the military the authority to issue administrative subpoenas -- known as ''national security letters'' -- requiring Internet providers, credit card companies, libraries and a range of other organizations to produce materials like phone records, bank transactions and e-mail logs. That authority now rests largely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the subpoenas do not require court approval."

Combat Zones That See
"BACKGROUND: Military Operations in Urban Terrain are fraught with danger. Urban canyons and abundant hide-sites yield standoff sensing from airborne and space-borne platforms ineffective. Short lines-of-sight neutralize much of the standoff and situation-awareness advantages currently rendered by U.S. forces. Large civilian populations and the ever-present risk of collateral damage preclude the use of overwhelming force. As a result, combat in cities has long been viewed as something to avoid. However, modern asymmetric threats seek to capitalize on these limitations by hiding in urban areas and forcing U.S. Forces to engage in cities. We can no longer avoid the need to be prepared to fight in cities. Combat zones That See will produce video understanding algorithms embedded in surveillance systems for automatically monitoring video feeds to generate, for the first time, the reconnaissance, surveillance and targeting information needed to provide close-in, continuous, always-on support for military operations in urban terrain. OBJECTIVE: Combat zones That See explores concepts, develops algorithms, and delivers systems for utilizing large numbers (1000s) of cameras to provide the close-in sensing demanded for military operations in urban terrain. Automatic video understanding will reduce the manpower needed to view and manage this monumental collection of data and reduce the bandwidth required to exfiltrate the data to manageable levels. The ability to track vehicles across extended distances is the key to providing actionable intelligence for military operations in urban terrain. Combat zones That See will advance the state-of-the art for multiple-camera video tracking to the point where expected track lengths reach city-sized distances. Trajectories and appearance information, resulting from these tracks, are the key elements to performing higher-level inference and motion pattern analysis on video-derived information. Combat zones That See will assemble the video understanding, motion pattern analysis, and sensing strategies into coherent systems suited to Urban Combat and Force Protection."

Confidentiality and Coping with Law Enforcement Inquiries
Increased visits to libraries by law enforcement agents, including FBI agents and officers of state, county, and municipal police departments, are raising considerable concern among the public and the library community.

FBI in Your Library
"Information is the most valuable resource on the planet. It allows people to make informed decisions, learn and better themselves. No one should be afraid to seek out information and read what they want."--Fight FBI authority to monitor reading habits, Wausau Daily Herald, May 20, 2003

Eagle Eyes
"The Eagle Eyes program is an anti-terrorism initiative that enlists the eyes and ears of Air Force members and citizens in the war on terror."

FBI's War on Terrorism
"The FBI is uniquely situated to achieve this counter-terrorism mission. We have both domestic intelligence and law enforcement capabilities. This gives the FBI a full range of options when we pursue investigations, enabling us not only to detect terrorist threats through surveillance, source development, and careful analysis, but to act against those threats through arrest and incarceration."

Homeland Security
"The new department's first priority is to protect the nation against further terrorist attacks. Component agencies will analyze threats and intelligence, guard our borders and airports, protect our critical infrastructure, and coordinate the response of our nation for future emergencies. Besides providing a better-coordinated defense of the homeland, DHS is also dedicated to protecting the rights of American citizens and enhancing public services, such as natural disaster assistance and citizenship services, by dedicating offices to these important missions."

"Organizers said the "Matrix" system enables investigators to find patterns and links among people and events faster than ever before, combining police records with commercially available collections of personal information about most American adults. It would let authorities, for instance, instantly find the name and address of every brown-haired owner of a red Ford pickup in a 20-mile radius of a suspicious event. The state-level program, aided by federal funding, is poised to expand across the nation at a time when Congress has been sharply critical of similar data-driven systems on the federal level, such as a Pentagon plan for global surveillance and an aviation passenger-screening system."  See also "Concerns about citizen privacy grow as states create 'Matrix' database (September 24, 2003)" and MATRIX (ACLU; March 2004; esp. ACLU Unveils Disturbing New Revelations About MATRIX Surveillance Program).

National Center for Education Statistics at the Department of Education (November 30, 2004)
"The change would also allow federal officials to track individual students as they journey through the higher education system. In recent years, increasing numbers of students have been attending more than one university, dropping out or taking longer than the traditional four years to graduate. Current reporting practices cannot capture such trends; a mobile student is recorded as a new student at each institution."

Novel Intelligence from Massive Data (NIMD)
"The Novel Intelligence from Massive Data (NIMD) program is aimed at focusing analytic attention on the most critical information found within massive data - information that indicates the potential for strategic surprise. Novel Intelligence is actionable information not previously known to the analyst or policy makers. It gives the analyst new insight into a previously unappreciated or misunderstood threat. Massive data has multiple dimensions that may cause difficulty, some of which include volume or depth, heterogeneity or breadth, and complexity."

Privacy and Confidentiality
Privacy is essential to the exercise of free speech, free thought, and free association. The courts have established a First Amendment right to receive information in a publicly funded library. Further, the courts have upheld the right to privacy based on the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution. Many states provide guarantees of privacy in their constitutions and statute law. Numerous decisions in case law have defined and extended rights to privacy.

Resolution on the USA Patriot Act and Related Measures That Infringe on the Rights of Library Users
"RESOLVED, That the American Library Association opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry; and, be it further . . ."

Resolution Reaffirming the Principles of Intellectual Freedom in the Aftermath of Terrorist Attacks
"WHEREAS: Benjamin Franklin counseled this nation: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”; and . . ."

Safeguarding Privacy in the Fight Against Terrorism (May 18, 2004)
"The Technology and Privacy Advisory Committee (TAPAC) to the Pentagon, originally formed to provide advice on the Total Information Awareness project, has recommended new rules for government data mining projects involving personal data — rules that would protect both civil liberties and national security. TAPAC's final report was issued in March but has just become publicly available."—Benton's Communications-related Headlines for 5/18/04 AND "— The draft of a report of great importance to our personal lives as well as our nation's security has been floating around Congress and the administration for the past two months. Because "Safeguarding Privacy in the Fight Against Terrorism" is not stamped secret — and because it is intended to prevent a future body blow to our system rather than expose a past scandal — the 119-page document commissioned by the Department of Defense has not surfaced until now.—New York Times

State Privacy Laws Regarding Library Records
"Libraries should have in place procedures for working with law enforcement officers when a subpoena or other legal order for records is made. Libraries will cooperate expeditiously with law enforcement within the framework of state law."

Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS)
"John Ashcroft and the Bush Administration’s insatiable appetite for new powers in the wake of 9/11 has taken on an alarming dimension — the recruitment of American workers, including your meter reader and your cable technician among them — to spy on their fellow Americans."--Former ACLU page on this topic

Terrorism Information Awareness (TIA)
"Saying they are worried about Americans' privacy, Pentagon officials announced in a report today that they were changing the name of a projected system to mine databases for information to help catch terrorists to Terrorist Information Awareness from Total Information Awareness."--New Name of Pentagon Data Sweep Focuses on Terror (May 21, 2003)

Terrorism Intelligence and DataSystem (TID)
"Lowery and a number of bureau officials briefed reporters on the new database, known as TID, or Terrorism Intelligence and Data. If designed as envisioned, it would house information from a vast array of sources and would be used in some capacity by the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, the government’s new terrorism intelligence hub overseen by the CIA."

Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC)
"Congress required the Homeland Security Department to implement a system for analyzing information on terrorist threats, but a separate entity known as the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) is housed within the CIA and will serve as a central repository for all government intelligence information. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said the Bush administration unwisely placed that center there."

USA Patriot Act
The following information about the USA Patriot ACT was prepared by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom and reviewed by legal counsel.

The USA Patriot Act in the Library
The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 ("USA Patriot Act") became law on October 26, 2001. This explains how the Act affects libraries.

USA Patriot Act Resolutions of State Library Associations
These are resolutions opposing the USA Patriot Act endorsed by state library associations or resolutions endorsing ALA's Resolution on the USA Patriot Act and Related Measures That Infringe on the Rights of Library Users.


The Ultimate Net Monitoring Tool (May 17, 2006)

"Anything that comes through (an internet protocol network), we can record," says Steve Bannerman, marketing vice president of Narus, a Mountain View, California, company. "We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on, we can reconstruct their (voice over internet protocol) calls."

The N.S.A.'s Math Problem (May 16, 2006)

"NEWS that AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth gave customer records to the National Security Agency has set off a heated debate over the intricacies of espionage law. But legal or not, this sort of spying program probably isn't worth infringing our civil liberties for — because it's very unlikely that the type of information one can glean from it will help us win the war on terrorism."

NSA continues controversial data-mining program (February 24, 2006)

"Total Information Awareness projects, shut down by Congress in 2003, funded under different plan."

Help Stop Bush's NSA Spying Program (January 2006)

"On January 17, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency, seeking an end to the secret program of illegal electronic surveillance authorized by President Bush. Though the president claims he can authorize warrantless spying on Americans, his surveillance program is illegal. It violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution and exceeds the limits of executive authority. This warrantless domestic surveillance must end and checks and balances must be restored."

NSA Spying on Americans Is Illegal (December 29, 2005)

"What if it emerged that the President of the United States was flagrantly violating the Constitution and a law passed by the Congress to protect Americans against abuses by a super-secret spy agency? What if, instead of apologizing, he said, in essence, "I have the power to do that, because I say I can." That frightening scenario is exactly what we are now witnessing in the case of the warrantless NSA spying ordered by President Bush that was reported December 16, 2005 by the New York Times."

Fuzzy logic behind Bush's cybercrime treaty (November 28, 2005)

"Bush claims the treaty, formally approved by a Senate committee this month, will 'deny safe havens to criminals, including terrorists, who can cause damage to U.S. interests from abroad, using computer systems.'"

But in reality, the Convention on Cybercrime will endanger Americans' privacy and civil liberties—and place the FBI's massive surveillance apparatus at the disposal of nations with much less respect for individual liberties."

Surveillance Society (November 8, 2005)

"Communism in Eastern Bloc nations failed because so many societal resources were wasted on control, leaving few available for individual initiative and creativity. Liberty and privacy make people happy, creative, productive, and rich. The U.S. government—and the businesses and non-profit groups that are following the "control-oriented" social norms fostered by government action—should take heed and let freedom ring."

Pentagon wants new spying powers in US (October 11, 2005)

"Claiming it needs greater latitude for the war on terror, the US Senate Intelligence Committee has approved a request from the Pentagon for the right to "covertly" gather intelligence on US citizens in order to determine whether they can recruit them as informants, without telling them that they are doing so on behalf of the US government. Reuters reported Friday that the Pentagon said the measure, which is aimed at the Muslim community in the US, could help them fight insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan."

Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In (September 9, 2005)

"Update by Anna Miranda: The United States is at risk of turning into a full-fledged surveillance society. The tremendous explosion in surveillance-enabling technologies, combined with the ongoing weakening in legal restraints that protect our privacy mean that we are drifting toward a surveillance society. The good news is that it can be stopped. Unfortunately, right now the big picture is grim.—ACLU9"

The State of Surveillance (August 8, 2005)

"In the meantime, scientists who labor on surveillance prototypes are encouraged that their innovations can bring benefits in health care and food safety. Over time, people may get smarter about how to live with threats and make use of technology without undermining their most basic values. They must. A country that sacrifices its citizens' freedom in the fight to protect them is no victor."

Pressure on U.S. to Use More Surveillance (July 29, 2005)

"Let's say we put cameras on all the subways in New York City, and terrorists bomb movie theaters instead. Then it's a total waste of money," said Bruce Schneier, author of "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World. It's not much more likely to catch a terrorist than the random searches that New York officials have begun conducting on subways, he said. Better to spend money on intelligence resources to prevent attacks and emergency training to respond to them, he said."

FedEx jumps on board terror fight (May 29, 2005)
"FedEx has opened the international portion of its databases, including credit-card details, to government officials. It has created a police force recognized by Tennessee that works alongside the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The company has rolled out radiation detectors at overseas facilities to detect dirty bombs and donated an airplane to federal researchers looking for a defense against shoulder-fired missiles.

Moreover, the company is encouraging its 250,000 employees to be spotters of would-be terrorists. It is setting up a system designed to send reports of suspicious activities directly to the Department of Homeland Security via a special computer link.

FedEx’s newfound enthusiasm for a frontline role in the war on terror shows how the relationship between business and government has changed in the past few years. In some cases, these changes are blurring the division between private commerce and public law enforcement."

DHS chief floats idea of collecting private citizens' information (May 16, 2005)

"Call it Total Information Awareness, homeland-style. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff this week floated an idea to start a nonprofit group that would collect information on private citizens, flag suspicious activity, and send names of suspicious people to his department."

The Emergence of the Homeland Security State (January 28, 2005)
If you're reading this on the Internet, the FBI may be spying on you at this very moment.

Big Brother Gets a Brain (May 21, 2003)
The Pentagon's Plan for Tracking Everything That Moves; the military is scheduled to issue contracts for Combat Zones That See, or CTS, as early as September.

Justice Dept. Lists Use of New Power to Fight Terror (May 21, 2003)

Building a nation of snoops (May 14, 2003)

Related Links

Government Surveillance