[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] released a report [text, PDF] on Wednesday claiming that the US is diminishing its “core values” with regard to various counterterrorism measures put in place during the 10 years since the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive]. To support this contention, the report cites to US policies regarding indefinite military detention for terrorism suspects, the use of torture on terrorism suspects and enemy combatants, racial and religious profiling, and domestic surveillance and wiretapping. The report posits that these policies run deeper than what is known by the American people, civil liberties continue to be violated in secret and that future violations are imminent. The report calls upon US citizens to demand national security measures that do not encroach upon civil liberties and to urge government leaders to put an end to policies and programs that do not align themselves with these values:
We look to our leaders and our institutions, our courts and our Congress, to guide us towards a better way, and it is now up to the American people to demand that our leaders respond to national security challenges with our values, our unity—and yes, our courage—intact. Our country is strong. And it is our fundamental values that are the very foundation of our strength and security.
The ACLU acknowledged that the government has sought to cease certain questionable practices, citing President Barack Obama’s directive to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison [JURIST news report], but stated that other questionable practices remain “core elements of [US] national security strategy today.”
One practice that the ACLU report criticized was the government’s practice of using cell phone location data to track individuals suspected of terroristic or criminal acts The ACLU is currently involved in litigation and investigations pertaining to requests for information filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] regarding the Department of Justice‘s (DOJ) [official website] use of this practice. The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] on Wednesday ordered [JURIST report] the DOJ to disclose docket information in certain cases, finding that privacy concerns did not outweigh the public interest goals of the FOIA. Last month the group announced that their affiliates were sending approximately 375 requests for information [JURIST report] in 31 states to reveal how law enforcement uses location data tracking on cell phones. Most jurisdictions have never encountered cell phone tracking as a legal question, so police are generally not required to obtain a warrant. The ACLU is demanding a review of information from each targeted department, including: if probable cause warrants are obtained to access cell phone location data, statistics on how frequently law enforcement gathers this data, how much money is being spent on cell phone tracking, and any other policies or procedures used to acquire cell phone location data. The ACLU also supports the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act [materials], introduced to Congress in June, which would require government agencies to obtain a probable cause warrant before seeking location data.