With NSA and NYPD under scrutiny, is tide turning on surveillance?
The NYPD is dropping more than a half million names from its stop-and-frisk database, and NSA surveillance may face new scrutiny for reportedly sifting the actual content of Americans' e-mail.
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But in 2010, against the objections of Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, the state passed a law forcing the NYPD to expunge the information of anyone who was not charged with a crime – about 90 percent of the data. In the new settlement, the remaining names and addresses will be deleted within 90 days.Skip to next paragraph
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But the stop-and-frisk tactic faces its biggest test sometime in the next few weeks, when a federal judge is expected to rule on whether the controversial police practice violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment’s equal protection clause, which bars racial discrimination. Roughly 85 percent of those stopped are black or Latino, and 9 out of 10 of all stops result in no arrest or further action.
“They’re under a lot of pressure from both the federal court and potentially the Justice Department to take a hard look at this thing,” says Mr. McLaughlin. “And I think the case is critical to the continuation of the policy, because if the case is successful for the plaintiffs, then there will be more likely than not a federal monitor appointed.”
The Justice Department has already told the judge that a federal monitor is the most appropriate remedy, should she find stop-and-frisk unconstitutional.
At the same time, the Obama administration continues to defend the secret NSA databases against charges that it violates the constitution’s protections against unwarranted searches, as an issue of national security. But the New York Times investigation revealed that in addition to its complex dragnet of American’s phone and Internet data, analyzing only connections to previously known suspects, the spy agency also scans all texts and e-mails sent overseas with a keyword search.
But these keywords need not have any direct connection to a known terror suspect. An e-mail or text that simply mentions anything related to the keywords used, even if incidental or coincidental, can be sent to an analyst for review. This has never been acknowledged since details of the NSA program first came to light with the leaks by Edward Snowden.
This brings constitutional questions about the NSA program even more to the fore, say experts, and it adds another layer to charges that the government surveillance program intrudes too far into Americans’ private affairs.
The program “involves a breathtaking invasion of millions of people's privacy," wrote Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director, in a statement. "The government's scrutiny of virtually every international e-mail sent by Americans will have extraordinary consequences for free expression. Americans will inevitably hesitate to discuss controversial topics, visit politically sensitive websites, or interact with foreigners with dissenting views. By injecting the NSA into virtually every cross-border interaction, the US government will forever alter what has always been an open exchange of ideas."