November 7, 2008 | By Tim Jones

A Privacy Agenda For The New Administration

This is the first post in a three part series directed at restoring some of the civil liberties we've lost over the past eight years. Today's post is about our privacy rights. We'll follow this up early next week with our thoughts on intellectual property rights and government transparency.

As new leaders prepare to move into the White House and Congress over the next few months, we'd like to call on them to restore Americans' privacy rights. Here's a little "wish list" we'd like to put forward:

  1. Repeal or repair the FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA). There are a great many flaws in FISAAA, which was passed last Summer after a long and difficult fight. Most significantly, the provisions granting retroactive immunity from litigation to telecommunications companies complicit in the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program should be repealed so that the millions of Americans who have been illegally surveilled can have their day in court.

  2. Reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA). ECPA is a major law restricting the government's ability to surveil citizens and is in desperate need of reform. It has become dangerously out-of-sync with recent technological developments and Americans' expectation of online privacy. In particular, the privacy of personal data should not depend on how long an ISP has stored that data or whether the data is stored locally or remotely.

  3. Reform the State Secrets Privilege. The State Secrets Privilege has been radically abused by the Bush Administration, particularly to shield its electronic surveillance activity from judicial review. The new administration should voluntarily reduce its use of the privilege, and work with Congress to reform the privilege and insure that claims of state secrecy are subject to independent judicial scrutiny.

  4. Scale back the use of National Security Letters to gag and acquire data from online service providers. The REAL ID Act, with its requirement that Americans carry a national ID card, has been rejected by many U.S. states and should be federally repealed. Large-scale government data collection and data-mining projects like Automated Targeting System (ATS) should be reduced or eliminated. Invasive border-searches of electronic devices should be stopped.


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