Monday, 16 July 2012
At the end of my lawsuit, what have we learned about DHS travel surveillance?
I've "stipulated" (agreed, legally, although that doesn't mean I really agree) to the dismissal of the remaining claims in my lawsuit, Hasbrouck v. U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
I am grateful to my lawyers David Greene, Lowell Chow, Jim Wheaton, and Geoff King; to the First Amendment Project staff and interns; and to my other supporters including John Gilmore for making possible this challenge to the secrecy of DHS surveillance of international travellers.
There's a detailed report on the dismissal and what it means on the Identity Project blog, with links to, and analysis of, the additional disclosures made by CBP since the initial rulings in January by Judge Seeborg of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco:
Link | Posted by Edward on Monday, 16 July 2012, 22:41 (10:41 PM)
Individuals and governments abroad should also take due note of the U.S. government"s claims in this case, and judge their collaboration with the Automated Targeting System (ATS) accordingly. Individuals -- even U.S. citizens -- have no right under U.S law to see what ATS records are being kept about them, and no right to know how or according to what algorithms data about themselves is mined, processed, or otherwise used. No records are kept of requests for access to records, and no logs are kept of who retrieves records.
Clearly, the Automated Targeting System is exactly what the Privacy Act was intended to prohibit: a system of persistent secret government dossiers about the legal activities of people who are not suspected of any crime. The reason for the enactment of the Privacy Act was the recognition that such surveillance systems, regardless of their purposes or the benign intentions of their creators, are inherently likely to be be misused.
At the end of the day, the (unsurprising) lesson of Hasbrouck v. CBP is that U.S. courts continue to place the "airport exception to the First Amendment" above our right to travel and our right as citizens, presumed innocent until guilty, to be free from dragnet surveillance.
If the courts won"t upheld the intent of the Privacy Act by ruling against the maintenance of systems such as ATS, it"s up to the public to say, "No", and to demand that Congress enact legislation explicitly mandating that ATS be shut down and all ATS records about innocent individuals be destroyed.
I am not surprised by the outcome of this lawsuit, which revealed more than I had expected about the contents of ATS records and the the nature and functioning of the ATS system. I am pleased and proud of whatever role this lawsuit may have played in exposing the lack of respect by the executive and judicial branches of the U.S. government for our fundamental rights.