As the government sought additional ways to “keep Americans safer,” 9/11 became a catalyst for sweeping surveillance policies designed to monitor the public. Under a presidential order issued in 2002, George W. Bush authorized the National Security Agency to monitor phone calls and emails of individuals within the United States without warrants. This policy, which was a departure from the NSA’s traditional focus on foreign monitoring, stood in conjunction with the PATRIOT Act to mark the beginning of a shift in domestic surveillance.

Since 2001, the government’s use of National Security Letters, which require recipients to release records about an individual in question and forbid recipients from reporting receipt of such letters, has skyrocketed. Monies poured into information collection have grown exponentially through the establishment of fusion centers, which seek to collect and centralize as much data as possible on criminal activity in the United States. Surveillance has expanded to the electronic frontier, and various legislative initiatives have been set forth to monitor Americans’ online activities. While protection of the American people is important, it must be done with oversight – and must not reduce civil liberties to the point of obscurity.

Find out more information about surveillance issues from our allies, including:

  • American Civil Liberties Union: ACLU works daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country. Included in their focus areas is surveillance and privacy.
  • Defending Rights and Dissent: Defending Rights and Dissent, a joining of the former Bill of Rights Defense Committee and Defending Dissent Foundation, is a national non-profit grassroots organization working to defend the rule of law and rights and liberties challenged by overbroad national security and counter-terrorism policies.
  • Electronic Privacy Information Center: EPIC is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C. It was established in 1994 to focus public attention on emerging civil liberties issues and to protect privacy, the First Amendment, and constitutional values.

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