Surveillance is a valuable counterterrorism tool; indeed, intelligence is the primary defense in attempting to stop largely unpredictable attacks by a small number of individuals. But surveillance is also susceptible to abuse. The government has repeatedly used surveillance tools as a mechanism to targets activists or minorities—from the Church Committee revelations; to the NYPD’s post 9/11 Surveillance Unitfocused on monitoring Muslim communities; to recent revelations that the Department of Homeland Security monitored Black Lives Matter protesters. These more recent examples show how quickly well-intentioned actions can be co-opted for pernicious goals—if we wait until the next J. Edgar Hoover arises to limit surveillance powers, it may be too late to meaningfully stop the pervasive threats of potential abuse.
As technology continues to advance at break-neck speed—and the government’s power to sweep up sensitive information continues to grow—realistically achievable limits on collection are not enough to safeguard privacy. In the Golden Age of Surveillance, it is critical that we also place appropriate limits on what the government can do with the data it inevitably amasses.
Read the entire post on Lawfare, a widely read and widely respected national security blog.