Thursday, August 16, 2007

Government Surveillance of U.S. Citizens

Civil liberty groups are upset with plans to expand the use of high-tech surveillance equipment for domestic security purposes. As reported in the Washington Post, President Bush has authorized the use of surveillance technology, previously only available for surveillance of foreign countries, for domestic use. The goal of authorizing the use of this higher powered technology is to improve domestic security by doing such things as preventing illegal immigration and further instances of domestic terrorism. Such technology is already in use for scientific purposes, and has been in use on a case-by-case basis when such assistance has been requested; however, civil liberty groups claim that the implementation of such technology for domestic surveillance on such a wide basis would be akin to having a real life "Big Brother".

While it appears no lawsuit has yet been filed challenging this authorization of technology use, government lawyers were in Court yesterday defending warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens. Electronic Frontier Foundation, Plaintiffs in one case, had sued AT&T, accusing the company of collaborating with the National Security Agency in order to "data-mine" Americans' communications, violating the First and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution (further case background can be found here). At the same time in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals was a case by an Islamic charity challenging warrantless surveillance based on the fact that such surveillance violates the attorney-client privilege. Although the government lawyers argued that such surveillance is required to ensure that national security is maintained, the New York Times is reporting that the Court is leaning towards letting at least one of the cases proceed for further hearing.

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