Quotes on Surveillance & Privacy in America

"'They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.'"

Benjamin Franklin
Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 1
November 11, 1755
Library Topic

"The necessity of procuring good Intelligence is apparent & need not be further urged—All that remains for me to add, is, that you keep the whole matter as secret as possible. For upon Secrecy, Success depends in most Enterprizes of the kind, and for want of it, they are generally defeated, however well planned & promising a favourable issue."

George Washington
Founders Online, National Archives
July 26, 1777
Library Topic

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Bill of Rights to the United States Constitution (1789)
National Archives
March 4, 1789
Library Topic
Library Topic: The Patriot Act

"For the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places. What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection. But what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected."

Justice Potter Stewart
U.S. Supreme Court
Library Topic

"By tearing down the wall between law enforcement and the intelligence community, we have been able to share information in a way that was virtually impossible before the Patriot Act."

Attorney General John Ashcroft
July 13, 2004
Library Topic
Library Topic: The Patriot Act

"The Patriot Act closed dangerous gaps in America's law enforcement and intelligence capabilities, gaps that terrorists exploited when they attacked us."

President George W. Bush
The New York Times
June 9, 2005
Library Topic
Library Topic: The Patriot Act

"The Supreme Court has long held that the Fourth Amendment allows warrantless searches where 'special needs, beyond the normal need for law enforcement,' exist. Foreign intelligence collection, especially in a time of war when catastrophic attacks have already been launched inside the United States, falls within the special needs context."

Library Topic

"We all agreed that we needed legislation to make it harder for suspected terrorists to go undetected in this country. Americans everywhere wanted that.

But soon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this law didn't just provide law enforcement the powers it needed to keep us safe, but powers it didn't need to invade our privacy without cause or suspicion.

Now, at times this issue has tended to degenerate into an 'either-or' type of debate. Either we protect our people from terror or we protect our most cherished principles. But that is a false choice. It asks too little of us and assumes too little about America."

Library Topic
Library Topic: The Patriot Act

"If any law is valid, the Bill of Rights and the Constitution (still the Supreme Law of the Land) should trump statutory law where there's conflict. The Fourth Amendment is clear on the issue of warrants. They require probable cause, must be supported by oath or affirmation, and must describe with particularity the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. In every case the officer must provide to the magistrate enough facts and circumstances to demonstrate probable cause. He must swear to the court that the person about to be searched is worth searching. If he takes the oath dishonestly, he is guilty of perjury. And the government agent better have a very, very good idea what he expects to find.

The secret FISA courts do not meet this standard, and neither do the sneak and peak searches authorized by the Patriot Act. Instead, they allow investigators to snoop on Americans without any traditional court warrant, only a secret and unaccountable administrative or judicial decree. Laws like FISA and the Patriot abuse our privacy, system of checks and balances and constitutional government. These abusive laws must be repealed for the sake of American liberty."

Greg Anthony
San Diego Union Tribune
The Independent Institute
May 10, 2006
Library Topic
Library Topic: Constitutional Limits

"I would far rather over-estimate the threat [imposed by the Patriot Act] and be proven wrong than to underestimate the threat and wake up one morning in a world where the 21st century's J Edgar Hoover has the power to blackmail anyone in America."

Tim Lee
The Technology Liberation Front
April 27, 2008
Library Topic
Library Topic: The Patriot Act

"The Patriot Act vastly – and unconstitutionally – expanded the government's authority to pry into people's private lives with little or no evidence of wrongdoing. This overbroad authority unnecessarily and improperly infringes on Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures and First Amendment protections of free speech and association. Worse, it authorizes the government to engage in this expanded domestic spying in secret, with few, if any, protections built in to ensure these powers are not abused, and little opportunity for Congress to review whether the authorities it granted the government actually made Americans any safer."

American Civil Liberties Union
March 2009
Library Topic
Library Topic: The Patriot Act

"It is no response to assert that the Patriot Act has been useful; what you need to explain is how any particular safeguard would have so diluted investigative powers that it would have frustrated an investigation and created a security harm outweighing the benefit to civil liberties. If you'd rather trade scary stories, that's fine too — just let me know so I can buy a bag of marshmallows before our next round."

Julian Sanchez
Los Angeles Times
Cato Institute
October 21, 2009
Library Topic
Library Topic: The Patriot Act

"The provisions allow the government, with permission from a special court, to obtain roving wiretaps over multiple communication devices, seize suspects' records without their knowledge, and conduct surveillance of a so-called 'lone wolf,' or someone deemed suspicious but without any known ties to an organized terrorist group.

The Patriot Act drew heavy criticism from Democrats – Obama even once said it needed to be dialed back – during the Bush administration. But experts suggest that a string of foiled terrorist plots over the past year combined with the Democrats' falling ratings amid the healthcare debate blunted any move to reform the act, which was passed in the wake of 9/11."

Michael B. Farrell
The Christian Science Monitor
March 1, 2010
Library Topic
Library Topic: Domestic Terrorism

"The Fourth Amendment arises from abuses of the British Crown that allowed roving searches by revenue agents under the guise of what were called 'writs of assistance' or 'general warrants.' Instead of following specific allegations against specific individuals, the Crown's revenue agents were given free rein to search indiscriminately.

In 1761, the famous colonial leader, James Otis, challenged these writs, arguing that 'A man's house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege.' Two hundred and fifty years later, the PATRIOT Act restores these roving searches.

In the audience that day in 1761 was a 25-year-old lawyer named John Adams. He would later recall, 'Every man of an immense crowded audience appeared to me to go away as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance. Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there, the child, "Independence" was born.'

The American Founders responded with the Fourth Amendment. It provides that before the government can invade a person's privacy, the executive branch must present sworn testimony to an independent judiciary that a crime has occurred, that there is reason to believe that an individual should be searched for evidence of the crime and specify the place to be searched and the things to be seized."

Congressman Tom McClintock
February 15, 2011
Library Topic
Library Topic: Constitutional Limits

"The founding fathers, who sought security from government, would probably reject today's conventional wisdom that liberty and security are at odds, and that one must be sacrificed for the other. In their experience, the chief threat to individual security came from government itself, as in the house-to-house searches conducted by British customs officers under blanket 'writs of assistance.' After the Boston lawyer James Otis Jr. eloquently challenged the writs in 1761, John Adams, who was present in the crowded courtroom, wrote of the audience's rage, 'Then and there the child independence was born.'

Independent America's answer to those searches was the Fourth Amendment, with its requirement that law enforcement have probable cause to believe that evidence of a crime can be found at a particular place and time before a judge issues a warrant.

The ingenious feature of this demand is that it makes criminal investigations more efficient and accurate, even as it preserves liberty. If that rule and others in the Bill of Rights are followed, the police waste less time chasing false leads, make fewer erroneous arrests and leave the community safer.

In other words, the framers handed down a system in which liberty and security were fused, one inseparable from the other. So it is hard to see how safety has been enhanced by the post-9/11 expansion of counterterrorism surveillance, which has uncovered hardly any known plots and instead burdens analysts with so much irrelevant noise that they have trouble hearing the ominous melodies."

David K. Shipler
The New York Times
June 22, 2011
Library Topic

"IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, the Custodian of Records shall produce to the National Security Agency (NSA) upon service of this Order, and continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this Order, unless otherwise ordered by the Court, an electronic copy of the following tangible things: all call detail records of 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communication (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls...."

Library Topic

"The absence of a clear legal standard for access to electronic communications content not only endangers privacy rights, but also endangers the admissibility of evidence in criminal and other legal proceedings."

Library Topic

"Because even if you're not doing anything wrong you're being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong. You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer."

Library Topic

"The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America of these disclosures is that nothing will change. People will see in the media all of these disclosures. They'll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society. But they won't be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.

And the months ahead, the years ahead it's only going to get worse until eventually there will be a time where policies will change because the only thing that restricts the activities of the surveillance state are policy. Even our agreements with other sovereign governments, we consider that to be a stipulation of policy rather then a stipulation of law. And because of that a new leader will be elected, they'll flip the switch, say that 'Because of the crisis, because of the dangers that we face in the world, you know, some new and unpredicted threat, we need more authority, we need more power.' And there will be nothing the people can do at that point to oppose it. And it will be turnkey tyranny."

Library Topic

"I think we have this vast intelligence bureaucracy and it's on the firing line. If those guys get it wrong, they're going to get the blame.

The president and everyone else in his sphere believe that protecting Americans is their greatest responsibility. By comparison, civil liberties usually take a back seat."

Matthew Dallek
The Two-Way
June 6, 2013
Library Topic

"There's a political element to this. The civilian liberties community, mainly on the left, took the Bush administration to task over this sort of perceived overreach. But now the libertarian right, which was largely silent then, has joined in the criticism.


As we are speaking, I have Google up on my computer. I have no doubt that Google knows more about my electronic activities than does the government. But there seems to be this greater acceptance of that than of the government having the same information. Interestingly, in Europe, it's the opposite, they are less concerned there about the government and more concerned about corporations."

Scott Neuman
The Two-Way
June 6, 2013
Library Topic

"I came in with a healthy skepticism about these programs. My team evaluated them. We scrubbed them thoroughly. We actually expanded some of the oversight, increased some of the safeguards. But my assessment, and my team's assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks.


In the abstract, you can complain about 'Big Brother' and how this is a potential program run amok. But when you actually look at the details, then, I think we've struck the right balance."

President Barack Obama
The Guardian
June 8, 2013
Library Topic

"I think the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone, and the use of the drone and the very few regulations that are on it today, and the booming industry of commercial drones."

Senator Dianne Feinstein
The Huffington Post
June 16, 2013
Library Topic

"Look, one of the results of these Snowden leaks is that it's launched a national debate about the balance between privacy and security. I'm convinced, the more the American people know exactly what it is we are doing, in this balance between privacy and security, the more they know the more comfortable they will feel. So frankly, I think we ought to be doing a bit more to explain what it is we're doing, why, and the very tight safeguards under which we're operating."

Michael Hayden
Face the Nation
CBS News
June 30, 2013
Library Topic

"...And I know people point to the number of warrants we request and the number of warrants we get saying it's a rubber stamp. Actually Bob, I would turn that on its head. That tells me we weren't pressing the court hard enough—we weren't giving them any tough decisions."

Michael Hayden
Face the Nation
CBS News
June 30, 2013
Library Topic

"But even if you thought they were adequate at the time, when you're collecting data in bulk—you've got it. The data lasts until you delete it; the rules only last until you decide to change them, and change them in secret."

Julian Sanchez
Daily Podcast
Cato Institute
July 3, 2013
Library Topic
Library Topic

More About This Topic...

Click thumbnails below to view links

Quote Page

Commentary or Blog Post

"When the Justice Department began investigating possible leaks of classified information about North Korea in 2009, investigators did more than obtain telephone records of a working journalist suspected of receiving the secret material. They used security badge access records to track the reporter's comings and goings from the State Department, according to a newly obtained court affidavit. They traced the timing of his calls with a State Department security adviser suspected of sharing the classified report. They obtained a search warrant for the reporter's personal e-mails. The case of Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, the government adviser, and James Rosen, the chief Washington correspondent for Fox News, bears striking similarities to a sweeping leaks investigation disclosed last week in which federal investigators obtained records over two months of more than 20 telephone lines assigned to the Associated Press. At a time when President Obama's administration is under renewed scrutiny for an unprecedented number of leak investigations, the Kim case provides a rare glimpse into the inner workings of one such probe."

"The Obama administration defended a warrantless wiretapping law before the Supreme Court on Monday."

"By forcing broadband Internet and interconnected voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services to abide by the controversial Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), the FCC ignored the statute's plain language and threatened privacy, security, and innovation."

"The Wall Street Journal reports that the Department of Homeland Security has approved a measure to allow federal civilian agencies and law enforcement to turn American spy satellites on their own citizens for the first time."

"Automated surveillance allows governments (and others) to data mine the physical world, yet little attention has been paid to the ethics of perpetual recording."

"Ever since former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed the details of two government spy programs that scoop up phone and Internet communications, a core question for many Americans has been, are they listening to me?"

"The revelations that Obama administration secretly collected phone records and accessed the internet activity of millions of Americans have raised new questions about the public's willingness to sacrifice civil liberties in the interests of national security. Since 9/11, Americans generally have valued protection from terrorism over civil liberties, yet they also have expressed concerns over government overreach and intrusions on their personal privacy."

"Popular Web sites are far more aggressive in their consumer-tracking practices than most people suspect, according to the first report of UC Berkeley Law School's Web Privacy Census, and consumers are trapped in an escalating privacy crisis with limited control over their personal information."

"Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings, President Obama described the work being done by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to unravel the plot as 'hard stuff.' But judging by the uproar sparked by Wednesday's revelation that the White House had sought a secret on its customers to the National Security Agency, determining where to draw the line between an individual's privacy and homeland security could well prove to be the hardest of the hard stuff. That line is subject to tectonic shifts influenced not only by events, but also by public attitudes, a changing legal framework and technological advances that have given investigators ever-more ability to peer into our private comings and goings, says Daniel Byman, a counterterrorism and security expert at the Brookings Institution."

"Do you hear that sound? The government sure does. It is the sound of privacy and freedom from government dying in America. The government sees and hears an awful lot of things these days, a frightening amount of things, in fact.

Massive government surveillance, even of innocent citizens, is certainly nothing new. Some of the...

"President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night. The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times disclosed last night."

"Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials."

This is a New York Times news article covering a speech President Bush made at the Ohio State Patrol Academy defending the Patriot Act and advocating the reauthorization of its provisions set to expire in December of 2005.

"The US Supreme Court agreed to examine whether a group of US-based lawyers, activists, and journalists can challenge a Bush-era law authorizing broad surveillance overseas."

"US director of national intelligence has apologised for denying in March that the NSA collected data on millions of Americans but senator remains 'deeply troubled.'"

"The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), enacted in October 1994, was intended to preserve the ability of LEAs to conduct electronic surveillance by requiring that telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of such equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have the required surveillance capabilities."

"First, some background. Congress enacted CALEA in 1994. CALEA's purpose was to provide a way of intercepting voice communications from digital telephone networks to aid in law enforcement investigations."

"Critics say the Bush-era law designed to collect foreign intelligence intrudes on the constitutionally protected privacy and free speech rights of US citizens. The US Supreme Court hears the case Monday."

"FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged Wednesday for the first time that the bureau has used drones for surveillance operations inside the U.S. — but only in a 'very, very minimal way.' He told a U.S. Senate committee that the FBI's use of the pilotless aircraft was 'very narrowly focused on particularized cases and particularized needs.' 'And I will tell you that our footprint is very small. We have very few and of limited use and we're exploring not only the use but also the necessary guidelines for that use,' he testified."

"Users of the extra secure and private email provider Lavabit are out of luck after the owner shut down the service on Thursday offering only a cryptic message as an explanation. Lavabit is the preferred email service provider of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and yes, this matters."

"The Obama administration and the nation's chief privacy regulator pressed Congress on Wednesday to enact online privacy legislation, saying new laws would level the playing field between companies that already had privacy policies and those that lacked them, and thus escape regulatory oversight."

"CNET has learned that the FBI has formed a Domestic Communications Assistance Center, which is tasked with developing new electronic surveillance technologies, including intercepting Internet, wireless, and VoIP communications."

"Providers of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) solutions have the benefit of being able to monitor a program's surveillance and security. The FBI is taking it a step forward, though, as it recently requested that VoIP providers voluntarily support backdoor access to users' phone calls."

"The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 provides critically important authority for the U.S. Intelligence Community to acquire foreign intelligence information by targeting foreign persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States. It ensures that the Intelligence Community has the flexibility and agility it needs to identify and respond to terrorist and other foreign threats to our security."

In this article, Mr. Anthony illustrates how the surveillance powers granted under the Patriot Act have been used to circumvent traditional warrant procedure--even when the suspect had no real connection to terrorism. He argues that FISA and the Patriot Act run afoul of the Fourth Amendment. 

"The cover story of [Reason Magazine's] August-September 2003 issue, 'Suspected Terrorist' reported on computer industry millionaire John Gilmore's court challenge of the mysterious legal requirement to show ID before getting on a plane—'mysterious' because the government refused to tell even the judge in Gilmore's original case what the actual legal requirement...

"Last Wednesday, the House of Representatives reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), which expires at the end of the year."

"THIS spring was a rough season for the Fourth Amendment. The Obama administration petitioned the Supreme Court to allow GPS tracking of vehicles without judicial permission. The Supreme Court ruled that the police could break into a house without a search warrant if, after knocking and announcing themselves, they heard what sounded like evidence being destroyed. Then it refused to see a Fourth Amendment violation where a citizen was jailed for 16 days on the false pretext that he was being held as a material witness to a crime."

"Google disclosed government requests for user data in the latest installment in its Transparency Report. The report documents an upward trend in requests that Google itself finds 'troubling.'"

Daniel Lyons comments on practices by Google and Facebook that may limit the privacy of users. He argues that privacy has become like currency, and that users are slowly selling their privacy away for useful or entertaining functions on the Internet.

"Hogan Lovells has published a White Paper with the results of a study about governmental access to data in the cloud. The paper was written by Christopher Wolf, co-director of Hogan Lovells' Privacy and Information Management practice, and Paris Office partner Winston Maxwell. It was released today at a program presented by the Openforum Academy in Brussels at which both Wolf and Maxwell spoke."

"When Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, said that his company's policy was 'to get right up to the creepy line and not cross it' he will have provoked more than a few shudders. Schmidt's remarks, made in an American magazine earlier this month, come with the company fighting privacy battles across the world."

"We asked a diverse group of panelists how much our readers should worry about the vast array of privacy threats."

"On August 8, 1974, Richard Nixon became the only United States president to resign from office. The announcement came less than two years after he was re-elected to office in a landslide victory pledging an end to the Vietnam War and promoting campaign finance reform. A botched burglary at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate triggered an investigation that eventually exposed an administration full of political espionage and sabotage."

"As Americans demand answers about the government's wholesale electronic snooping on its citizens, the primary snooper -- the National Security Agency (NSA) -- is building a monstrous digital datacenter in Utah capable of sorting through and storing every e-mail, voicemail, and social media communication it can get its hands on. This top-secret data warehouse could hold as many as 1.25 million 4-terabyte hard drives, built into some 5,000 servers to store the trillions upon trillions of ones and zeroes that make up your digital fingerprint."

"There’s a reason Russia and Germany got totalitarian police states in the middle of the 20th century; this was the first time modern transportation and communications technologies gave governments the ability to exert that kind of control. And while we missed the rise of totalitarianism, the post-World War II...

"The USA PATRIOT Act, a vast expansion of the American intelligence community's search and surveillance powers, was passed in haste in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. Now a new administration may finally have given Congress the leisure to repent. Last month, lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill held hearings to...

"For years, a handful of civilian agencies have used limited images from the nation's constellation of spy satellites to track hurricane damage, monitor climate change and create topographical maps."

"A majority of Americans – 56% – say the National Security Agency's (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority – 41% – say it is unacceptable. And while the public is more evenly divided over the government's monitoring of email and other online activities to prevent possible terrorism, these views are largely unchanged since 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, conducted June 6-9 among 1,004 adults, finds no indications that last week's revelations of the government's collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy."

"A veto-proof majority of the Montana Legislature decided ... to drive red light cameras out of the state. By a 33-17 vote in the Senate and a 75-25 vote in the House, lawmakers approved a measure introduced by state Representative Bill Nooney (R-Missoula) to prohibit the use of 'automated enforcement systems,' including systems already installed in the city of...

"The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April."

"For six years, the National Security Agency has been able to pluck data — including e-mails, videos, pictures, and connection logs — from the main servers of Microsoft, Google, Apple, and other leading U.S. tech companies, according to reports by The Washington Post and The Guardian."

"The top-secret PRISM program allows the U.S. intelligence community to gain access from nine Internet companies to a wide range of digital information, including e-mails and stored data, on foreign targets operating outside the United States. The program is court-approved but does not require individual warrants. Instead, it operates under a broader authorization from federal judges who oversee the use of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Some documents describing the program were first released by The Washington Post on June 6. The newly released documents below give additional details about how the program operates, including the levels of review and supervisory control at the NSA and FBI. The documents also show how the program interacts with the Internet companies. These slides, annotated by The Post, represent a selection from the overall document, and certain portions are redacted."

"President Obama signed a one-year extension of three sections of the USA Patriot Act on Saturday without any new limits on the measures that many liberal groups and Democrats said were necessary to safeguard American civil liberties."

"President Obama signs on from France after Congress passes the bill. Opposition to the government powers in the terrorist surveillance law brings together conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats."

"The idea behind a roving wiretap should be familiar if you've ever watched The Wire, where dealers used disposable 'burner' cell phones to evade police eavesdropping. A roving wiretap is used when a target is thought to be employing such measures to frustrate investigators, and allows the eavesdropper to quickly begin listening on whatever new phone...

"Public views of the Patriot Act, whose renewal is being debated by Congress, have changed little since the Bush administration. Currently, 42% say the Patriot Act is a necessary tool that helps the government find terrorists, while somewhat fewer (34%) say the Patriot Act goes too far and poses a threat to civil liberties."

"The Securities and Exchange Commission is moving to create an automated surveillance system that would scour the Internet for people who violate securities law. The agency has begun receiving proposals from vendors, who have conducted trial runs in recent weeks."

"CONSTANT vigilance: that is the task of the people who protect society from enemies intent on using subterfuge and violence to get their way. It is also the watchword of those who fear that the protectors will pursue the collective interest at untold cost to individual rights. Edward Snowden, a young security contractor, has come down on one side of that tussle by leaking documents showing that the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on millions of Americans' phone records and on the internet activity of hundreds of millions of foreigners. The documents, published by the Guardian and the Washington Post, include two big secrets (see article). One is a court order telling Verizon, a telecoms company, to hand over 'metadata', such as the duration, direction and location of subscribers' calls. The other gives some clues about a programme called PRISM, which collects e-mails, files and social-networking data from firms such as Google, Apple and Facebook. Much of this eavesdropping has long been surmised, and none of it is necessarily illegal. America gives wide powers to its law-enforcement and spy agencies. They are overseen by Congress and courts, which issue orders to internet firms."

"An often-repeated concern that the U.S. Patriot Act gives the U.S. government unequaled access to personal data stored on cloud services is incorrect, with several other nations enjoying similar access to cloud data, according to a study released Wednesday."

"I will discuss the background of the foreign surveillance programs and the effect that the Court's decision in Clapper is likely to have on other national security challenges."

"The National Security Agency surveillance programs made public this month have helped foil more than 50 terrorist plots since Sept. 11, including one to blow up the New York Stock Exchange, top intelligence officials told Congress on Tuesday. The officials appeared before the House Intelligence Committee and answered mostly friendly questions to defend the programs, which collect phone records inside the United States and monitor Internet communications overseas."

"Privacy on the Web is a constant issue for public discussion—and Congress is always considering more regulations on the use of information about people's habits, interests or preferences on the Internet. Unfortunately, these discussions lead to many misconceptions. Here are 10 of the most important:"

"The Washington Post this morning has a long profile of Gen. Keith Alexander, director the NSA, and it highlights the crux - the heart and soul - of the NSA stories, the reason Edward Snowden sacrificed his liberty to come forward, and the obvious focal point for any responsible or half-way serious journalists covering this story."

The first of a three-part series, this article and its subsequent parts discuss the effectiveness of the Patriot Act since its passage. Sanchez writes that safeguards on governmental investigative powers are necessary and that citizens should be concerned about the extent to which these powers are used. He concludes by saying that liberty and security are not...

"If you think the Bill of Rights is just so much scrap paper, and the separation of powers doctrine has outlived its usefulness, then the USA PATRIOT Act, passed overwhelmingly on Oct. 25, is the right recipe to deal with terrorists. On the other hand, if you are concerned about Fifth Amendment protection of due...

"Wiretapping is as old as the telephone itself. Yet the laws to prevent its misuse are even older. That said, revelations that President George W. Bush authorized wiretaps without prior court approval have reopened a century-old debate over when electronic surveillance is allowable under the law. The following timeline shows how wiretapping and other forms of electronic surveillance have come under increasing restriction after decades of abuse."

"In the wake of the September 11 attacks, Congress passed sweeping legislation designed to bolster U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Some of the most controversial measures, including the 2001 USA PATRIOT Act, significantly enhanced the federal government's ability to collect and analyze private information related to U.S. citizens. Proponents argue that the broader surveillance authorities are required to uncover and neutralize terrorism plots, while critics say the expanded powers infringe on civil liberties. In 2005, the Bush administration came under fire from Democrats and activist groups after press reports disclosed the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretapping program. In 2013, the Obama administration similarly attracted criticism from watchdog groups upon leaks related to its far-reaching domestic surveillance activities under the NSA. The episode has revived debate over privacy and national security and raised calls for reform."

"The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post. The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley."

"The Obama administration on Thursday announced voluntary guidelines for Web companies to protect consumers' privacy online, a win for Google, Facebook and other Internet giants that have fought against heavier federal mandates."

"Say you posted a YouTube video that members of the local, state or federal government don't like. A law enforcement entity or government lawyer asks Google to take down your video."

"When news broke in late 2005 that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping without warrants — surveillance that was authorized by President George W. Bush — Democrats were not happy campers. More than six in 10 (61 percent) Democrats said the practice was 'unacceptable' in a Washington Post-ABC News poll shortly after the story broke. But Democrats have changed their tune in the wake of new disclosures that the NSA is tracking millions of phone records under President Obama. According to a new Post-Pew Research Center poll, fully 64 percent say the agency's latest program to access phone records is 'acceptable,' which is 27 percentage points higher than their tolerance for the NSA's probes when polled in 2006. Republicans have shifted as well, but in a predictably different direction: 75 percent were OK with the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program in 2006, but a bare 52 percent majority says the NSA's current phone tracking program is acceptable."

"The 2009 Wiretap Report has just been released by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. The headline findings: 2,376 wiretaps were authorized for criminal investigations last year, of which 663 were federal and 1,713 were issued at the state level. (NB: These numbers don't include Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act wiretaps, 'pen register' requests...

Chart or Graph

"Table 5 provides a summary of expenses related to wiretaps in 2009."

"This slide shows when each company joined the program, with Microsoft being the first, on Sept. 11, 2007, and Apple the most recent, in October 2012."

Graph shows the type of offense instigating a wiretap.

Graph shows the number of state and federal wiretap authorizations from 1999 to 2009.

"The public has never liked the idea of the government monitoring their personal phone calls or emails. In the 9/11 anniversary survey, just 29% favored 'the U.S. government monitoring personal telephone calls and emails' in order to curb terrorism. It drew less support than the other anti-terror tactics asked about in the survey."

"A majority of Americans – 56% – say the National Security Agency's (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority – 41% – say it is unacceptable."

"[F]ewer Americans think it will be necessary to sacrifice civil liberties to combat terrorism than did so shortly after the 9/11 attacks."

"...Currently, 42% say the Patriot Act is a necessary tool that helps the government find terrorists, while somewhat fewer (34%) say the Patriot Act goes too far and poses a threat to civil liberties. In 2006, the public divided evenly over the Patriot Act, with 39% saying it is a necessary tool and 38% saying it goes too far. In 2004, a slight plurality (39%) said it goes too far and threatens civil liberties."

"...Republicans and Democrats have had very different views of the two operations. Today, only about half of Republicans (52%) say it is acceptable for the NSA to obtain court orders to track phone call records of millions of Americans to investigate terrorism. In January 2006, fully 75% of Republicans said it was acceptable for the NSA to investigate suspected terrorists by listening in on phone calls and reading emails without court approval. Democrats now view the NSA's phone surveillance as acceptable by 64% to 34%. In January 2006, by a similar margin (61% to 36%), Democrats said it was unacceptable for the NSA to scrutinize phone calls and emails of suspected terrorists."

This poll of 502 random individuals shows a majority of participants were more concerned about the federal government investigating possible terrorist threats than about government respecting personal privacy.

"The PRISM program collects a wide range of data from the nine companies, although the details vary by provider."

"This slide describes what happens when an NSA analyst 'tasks' the PRISM system for information about a new surveillance target."

"In our 2012 political values survey, 64% said they were concerned that 'the government is collecting too much information about people like me.' Yet 74% expressed this concern about business corporations."

Graph of public opinion on terrorist investigations and intrusion on privacy.

"According to a new Post-Pew Research Center poll, fully 64 percent say the agency's latest program to access phone records is 'acceptable,' which is 27 percentage points higher than their tolerance for the NSA's probes when polled in 2006."

Analysis Report White Paper

"As one observer put it, France's anti-terrorism laws make the Patriot Act look 'namby-pamby" by comparison....Frequently, there are misconceptions about what the law allows, at home and abroad."

"Using encrypted Internet telephony as an example, this Article proposes a change to the NSA's internal guidelines that would prevent dissemination of information gained through the frustration of the reasonable privacy expectations of protected persons unless exigent circumstances or serious threats to national security were presented."

"This report examines the various uses of video surveillance and other visual technology by public and private entities to prevent and discourage crime, including law enforcement practices, the conditions which may warrant public video surveillance, the associated legal and constitutional implications, and whether the technology has been effective in preventing crime."

In this report the ACLU discusses the unconstitutionality and ineffectiveness of the Patriot Act. It points out instances in which the Act has been used against citizens, challenges made to the Act in court, and offers ways to change the Act to make it more effective but less infringing on Americans' rights.

"The function of intelligence as an activity of the U.S. Government is often regarded as a product of the Cold War. Indeed, much of what is known today as the Intelligence Community was created and developed during the Cold War period. But intelligence has been a function of the Government since the founding of the Republic."


A poll from the Washington Post-Pew Research Center shows more Americans find NSA tracking of phone and internet records acceptable than don't. Users may view responses according to demographics by clicking on the detailed view of each poll question.

Scroll through this interactive timeline to learn about developments in government surveillance strategies since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. The timeline includes ACLU counteraction to these movements.

Cato research fellow Julian Sanchez discusses the NSA's data-mining programs. He mentions how use of the data-mining system faced difficulties because of unclear boundaries. Political officials may also have been swept up in the data-targeting. After all the retribution threatened to Edward Snowden for leaking security information about these programs, Sanchez is disturbed about the lack of uproar over intelligence official James Clapper, who lied about the programs to Congress.

This video contains the clip in which Mr. Wyden asks director of national intelligence James Clapper whether the NSA collects any type of data on millions of Americans. Clapper states that they do not "wittingly" do so.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) question FBI Director Robert Mueller on the use of drones for FBI surveillance. Mueller explains drones are used in a minimal way.

Gwen Ifill talks with Martha Raddatz of ABC News about the 2006 revelation that the NSA had been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans. They mention the rapid and guarded response of the federal government to these claims and discuss whether or not Americans are concerned about the extent of these security measures.

"Former National Security Agency head Michael Hayden says the Obama administration would be well-served by making the American people 'more comfortable' with recently revealed surveillance programs."

"James Bamford, a bestselling author on U.S. intelligence agencies, discusses the need for data collection, but questions just how big the scope and reach needs to be in the fight against terrorism. He speaks on Bloomberg Television's 'Bloomberg Surveillance.'"

"The U.S. goverment is accessing top Internet companies' servers to track foreign targets. Reporter Barton Gellman talks about the source who revealed this top-secret information and how he believes his whistleblowing was worth whatever consequences are ahead."

"The source behind the Guardian's NSA files talks to Glenn Greenwald about his motives for the biggest intelligence leak in a generation."

"Barack Obama defends US government programs that have reportedly conducted surveillance of people's personal phone and internet activity. Federal authorities have allegedly been mining data from companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook to gain access to emails, photos and other files allowing analysts to track a person's movements and contacts. The US president insists the surveillance programs strike a good balance between safety and privacy."

"A veteran constitutional law attorney discusses the concerns about Prism and other government surveillance programs."

A Fox News panel discusses the issue of wholesale surveillance in America by the NSA.

Primary Document

"A total of 2,376 intercepts authorized by federal and state courts were completed in 2009. The number of applications for orders by federal authorities was 663. The number of applications reported by state prosecuting officials was 1,713, with 24 states providing reports, two more than in 2008. The average number of persons whose communications were intercepted...

Transcript of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.

A foundational precursor to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the Communications Act of 1934 sought to "provide for the regulation of interstate and foreign communication by wire or radio, and for other purposes."

"CALEA was intended to preserve the ability of law enforcement agencies to conduct electronic surveillance by requiring that telecommunications carriers and manufacturers of telecommunications equipment modify and design their equipment, facilities, and services to ensure that they have the necessary surveillance capabilities."

"As with other aspects of data mining, while technological capabilities are important, there are other implementation and oversight issues that can influence the success of a project's outcome. One issue is data quality, which refers to the accuracy and completeness of the data being analyzed. A second issue is the interoperability of the data mining software and databases being used by different agencies. A third issue is mission creep, or the use of data for purposes other than for which the data were originally collected. A fourth issue is privacy. Questions that may be considered include the degree to which government agencies should use and mix commercial data with government data, whether data sources are being used for purposes other than those for which they were originally designed, and possible application of the Privacy Act to these initiatives. It is anticipated that congressional oversight of data mining projects will grow as data mining efforts continue to evolve. This report will be updated as events warrant."

"An Act To amend title 18, United States Code, with respect to the interception of certain communications, other forms of surveillance, and for other purposes."

"The bill, as amended, S. 607, provides greatly needed updates to our Federal digital privacy laws. The bill carefully balances the need to protect Americans' privacy rights in cyberspace, with the legitimate needs of law enforcement and the interests of the American technology sector. Given the many advances in technology and new threats to privacy, the passage and enactment of these important privacy updates is long overdue."

"The Protect America Act modernized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to provide our intelligence community essential tools to acquire important information about terrorists who want to harm America."

"An Act To amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes."

"We all agreed that we needed legislation to make it harder for suspected terrorists to go undetected in this country. Americans everywhere wanted that.

But soon after the PATRIOT Act passed, a few years before I ever arrived in the Senate, I began hearing concerns from people of every background and political leaning that this...

In this letter to Colonel Elias Dayton, George Washington shares campaign advice and urges the importance of secrecy in the gathering of intelligence.

"IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that, the Custodian of Records shall produce to the National Security Agency (NSA) upon service of this Order, and continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this Order, unless otherwise ordered by the Court, an electronic copy of the following tangible things: all call detail records of 'telephony metadata' created by Verizon for communication (i) between the United States and abroad; or (ii) wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls...."

"However, we are all agreed that granting the petition to expand CALEA to information services and the Internet would be inappropriate for three reasons:..."

This case is considered a landmark case in Fourth Amendment jurisprudence as it established the benchmark prerequisite test for warrants. According to Justice Stewart, who wrote the majority opinion for this case, the Fourth Amendment "protects people, not places" and that the rule of thumb for warrants is whether or not there is a "reasonable expectation of...

This collection of writings and memoirs of Benjamin Franklin was published after his death.

This piece of legislation is cited as "AN ACT To promote the national security by providing for a Secretary of Defense; for a National Military Establishment; for a Department of the Army, a Department of the Navy, and a Department of the Air Force; and for the coordination of the activities of the National Military Establishment with other departments and agencies...

This speech in the House chamber details why Representative McClintock withdrew his support from the Patriot Act. McClintock first recounts the circumstances leading up to the creation of the Fourth Amendment, and then relates an anecdote from Russia which demonstrates the importance of the Fourth Amendment.

"This case involves the assertion by a government employer of the right, in circumstances to be described, to read text messages sent and received on a pager the employer owned and issued to an employee. The employee contends that the privacy of the messages is protected by the ban on 'unreasonable searches and seizures' found in the Fourth Amendment to the United...

"Title VII of FISA, as added by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, created new separate procedures for targeting non-U.S. persons and U.S. persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States. While some provisions of Title VII could be characterized as relaxing FISA's traditional standards for electronic surveillance and access to stored communications, other provisions of Title VII have expanded FISA's scope to require judicial approval of activities, such as surveillance of U.S. persons on foreign soil, that were previously unregulated by the statute."

Remarks from Attorney General John Ashcroft to members of Congress. In this speech, he addresses the purpose of the Patriot Act and how it has helped in the prevention of terrorist attacks.

"This report provides background on the development of intelligence satellites and identifies the roles various agencies play in their management and use. Issues surrounding the current policy and proposed changes are discussed, including the findings of an Independent Study Group (ISG) with respect to the increased sharing of satellite intelligence data. There follows a discussion of legal considerations, including whether satellite reconnaissance might constitute a 'search' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment; an overview of statutory authorities, as well as restrictions that might apply; and a brief description of executive branch authorities and Department of Defense directives that might apply. The report concludes by discussing policy issues Congress may consider as it deliberates the potential advantages and pitfalls that may be encountered in expanding the role of satellite intelligence for homeland security purposes."

Following the controversy of several traffic cameras being put in place in Bozeman and Billings, the state legislature effectively banned such cameras in the future.


"Following the December 2005 disclosure by the New York Times of a highly-classified National Security Agency surveillance program that was authorized by President Bush shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, there has been a...

"During the Carter administration, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a new federal court to approve electronic surveillance of citizens and resident aliens alleged to be acting on behalf of a foreign power. Until now, the FISA court granted surveillance authority if foreign intelligence was the primary purpose of an...

"However, continuing advances in telecommunications technology have impaired and in some instances prevented telecommunications carriers from assisting law enforcement in conducting court-authorized electronic surveillance."

This document presents information about the Terrorist Surveillance Program, a security measure intended to help track terrorist information. The document poses common objections to the measure, one of which is the idea that "NSA activities violate the Fourth...

"AN ACT To assist State and local governments in reducing the incidence of crime, to increase the effectiveness, fairness, and coordination of law enforcement and criminal justice systems at all levels of government and for other purposes."

"This study traces the evolution of the military structures from the early 1930s to the establishment of a unique agency to deal with COMINT - the National Security Agency - in 1952."

"Amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) to state that nothing under its definition of 'electronic surveillance' shall be construed to encompass surveillance directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.

Allows the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and...

Following the terrorist attacks across the U.S. in 2001, the United States passed The Patriot Act to aid in the hunt for terrorists. This gave blanket powers (such as wiretapping) with less barriers evident than ever. This 300-page, hastily drafted document passed Congress easily.

"The Patriot Act is not really a 'tool'; it's a...

"The purpose of this guide is to provide an overview of the use of closed circuit television (CCTV) systems as a problem-oriented policing response to a crime problem."

This small poll was conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News after the 2006 revelation that the NSA was keeping the phone records of millions of Americans in its efforts to stop terrorism. The survey shows the majority of participants were more concerned about safety than government intrusion into privacy.