ACLU Demands NSA and DOJ Turn Over Spying Policy Records

For Immediate Release

ACLU
Contact: 

Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666;
media@aclu.org

ACLU Demands NSA and DOJ Turn Over Spying Policy Records

Recent Revelations Suggest There Are No Adequate Safeguards in Place to Protect Innocent Americans From Invasive Surveillance

NEW YORK - The
National Security Agency (NSA) and the Justice Department should
disclose any policies and procedures pertaining to how the NSA protects
Americans' privacy rights when it collects, stores and disseminates
private U.S. communications, according to Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) requests filed today by the American Civil Liberties Union. The
NSA has not released a public version of its procedures for protecting
the privacy of U.S. communications since 1993.

"The American public needs to know
whether the NSA's procedures are sufficiently protective of our privacy
rights," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National
Security Project. "Unfortunately, there is often no meaningful court
oversight of the NSA's surveillance activities and the NSA is left to
police itself."

On October 9, ABC News reported that
NSA officials have intercepted, listened to and passed around the phone
calls of hundreds of innocent U.S. citizens working overseas, including
soldiers, journalists and human rights workers from organizations like
the International Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, even after it
was clear that the calls were not in any way related to national
security. NSA officials regularly passed around salacious calls such as
the private "phone sex" calls of military officers calling home,
according to the report.

The new information shows the
government has misled the American public about the scope of its
surveillance activities and seems to contradict the statements of Bush
administration officials who assured the public that the NSA's
surveillance activities were directed at suspected terrorists. It also
suggests there are no real safeguards in place to protect the privacy
of Americans who are swept up in NSA surveillance, and that any
safeguards that do exist are ineffective or largely ignored by NSA
agents.

The ACLU FOIA requests ask the NSA and the Justice Department to produce:

  •  Any and all legal memoranda, procedures, policies, directives,
    practices, guidance or guidelines created between 1993 and the present
    pertaining to the acquisition, processing, analysis, retention, storage
    or dissemination of Americans' communications - whether targeted for
    interception or incidentally intercepted - during the course of NSA
    surveillance activities conducted inside or outside the United States;
    and
  • Any and all records created
    between September 2001 and the present concerning complaints about,
    investigations of, or disciplinary actions related to the NSA's
    monitoring of U.S. communications.

In July 2008, Congress enacted
the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), giving the NSA unprecedented
power to spy on Americans without warrants. The law was passed over the
strong objections of not only the ACLU and other civil liberties
groups, but many members of Congress and the American public. The FISA
Amendments Act permits dragnet, suspicionless surveillance of
Americans' international communications - precisely the kind of
invasive and ineffective monitoring that was reported last week. 

The ACLU filed a landmark lawsuit
to stop the government from conducting surveillance under the new
wiretapping law, arguing that the law violates the Fourth Amendment by
giving the government virtually unchecked power to intercept Americans'
international e-mails and telephone calls. The case was filed on behalf
of a broad coalition of attorneys and human rights, labor, legal and
media organizations.

"The FAA shows the danger of
Congress choosing to legislate before it investigates," said Caroline
Fredrickson, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "We
now know that whistleblowers approached the Senate Judiciary Committee
last year with claims of NSA malfeasance and that efforts to bring them
to light went nowhere. Congress should have been much more aggressive
while investigating those allegations. If it had, the FISA Amendments
Act may have had the safeguards needed to prevent this kind of abuse in
the future. As it stands now, the privacy rights of Americans are as
protected as any given NSA analyst allows them to be."

The ACLU's FOIA request to the NSA is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/37143lgl20081015.html

The ACLU's FOIA request to the Department of Justice is online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/nsaspying/37144lgl20081015.html

More information about the ACLU's ongoing FAA lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/faa

 

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