Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Tuesday urged [press release] the UN Human Rights Committee [official website] to find that US electronic surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder] violate fundamental human rights. The US is due to appear before the committee on March 13 and 14 for a review of its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text]. Andrea Prasow, senior national security counsel and advocate at HRW, claims that "the US review is the perfect time for the Human Rights Committee to make clear that mass communications surveillance, whether against a country's own citizens or another country's, violates basic rights." HRW went on to state that the US has made progress in complying with the ICCPR but has failed to correct other violations such as abusive post-911 counter-terrorism measures yet to be repealed.
The revelations surrounding the National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] surveillance programs have sparked worldwide debate and controversy. US Senator Rand Paul [official website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] against President Barack Obama [official website] and others in February, challenging the constitutionality of the NSA surveillance program. Another challenge was raised in January when the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a motion [JURIST report] to suppress information gathered from electronic surveillance in the trial of terror suspect Jamshid Muhtorov. Earlier that month Obama pledged [JURIST report] to end the NSA's mass surveillance practices and reform the policies of intelligence-gathering agencies. A federal judge ruled [JURIST report] in December that the NSA's practice of collecting cell phone data is likely unconstitutional.