NSA Leaks Making Law Enforcement Officials More Wary Of Carelessly Deploying Surveillance Technology

from the should-have-been-this-cautious-all-along,-but-we'll-take-what-we-can-get dept

The trickle-down effect of the leaked NSA documents is starting to seep into smaller entities at local levels. The outrage that has greeted these revelations now has law enforcement entities concerned about public reaction to their own surveillance programs. Reuters reports that speakers at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference are striking a very cautionary tone about the deployment of surveillance technology.

“The scrutiny that the NSA has come under filters down to us,” [Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon] Keenan said at the annual gathering that draws top law enforcement from the United States and elsewhere with workshops, product exhibits and conferences.

For many new technologies, there is no clear legal standard to govern their use, he said.

“If we are not very careful, law enforcement is going to lose the use of technology,” he said.

Additional care in the future would be nice, considering many law enforcement entities, from local police departments to the FBI, have deployed surveillance programs and data collection technology with minimal oversight and few, if any, guidelines for use. Periods for public comment seem to be an afterthought, something usually considered only after the public has raised objections to already-deployed programs.

What should have been the approach taken in the past looks to be the route law enforcement will have to take in the future, according to Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey.

“Imagine instead of driving down the street scanning license tags, driving down the street checking the faces of individuals walking down the street,” Ramsey said.

“We have to remind ourselves – just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do it.”

Both FBI Director James Comey and US Attorney General Eric Holder are scheduled to speak at the conference. We’ll see if this tone changes after these two handle the mic. The FBI’s track record on deploying privacy-invading technology with no rules or regulations has been particularly atrocious, with some of its actions skirting legality altogether. The FBI should be leading by example but, like the NSA and its defenders, it seems to be more concerned with finding new and creative justifications for its invasive surveillance programs (like the biometric database it’s building) rather than moving forward with more caution and respect for American civil liberties.

As for the law enforcement officials quoted, it’s a shame that it takes a consistent barrage of leaked intelligence documents to make them realize that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it.

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Comments on “NSA Leaks Making Law Enforcement Officials More Wary Of Carelessly Deploying Surveillance Technology”

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TasMot (profile) says:

To Protect and To Serve

That used to be the “motto” on the police cars around me. Now police departments seem to be trying to recreate themselves in the image or the Pre-Crime Bureau and Big Brother. The cops have been watch too many movies. They seem to want to move toward predicting and pre-stopping crimes rather than catching the criminals once a crime has been commited. In their efforts to pre-stop the crimes, they seem to have forgotten the laws of the land like the 1st and 4th amendments which they are also supposed to be upholding, not trampling them with ever more invasive technologies.
Many law enforcement officers don’t even seem to get it that they have cameras to record everything, but the citizens they are supposed to be protecting aren’t allowed to have cameras. The irony seems lost on them.

Edward Teach says:

Respect citizens and you'll be fine, Cheif

Look, it’s pretty simple. Respect the Citizens of this Great Country, and everything will work out fine. Show that you’ve got a grip on the meaning, and not just the letter of the law. Don’t rely on stupid, legalistic “three pronged tests” for the use of obvious 4th Amendment violating tech, systems and programs. Use the Golden Rule or the Kantian Moral Imperative to guide yourselves. Don’t treat Citizens as subjects, and don’t put yourself above The Law itself.

Do this, and ye shall be free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It's not the Technology

The Bill of Rights also seeks to protect certain actions and it does not matter what technology is used to perform the aciton.

Let me break it down for law enforcement, since they seem to be lost when it comes to technology:

private messages = private conversation
email = letters
text files/word documents = papers
VOIP = phone call
contact list = address book

It’s really that simple. If you can’t legally open my mailbox, pull out my mail and open it and read it, in what reality does email not deserve the same protections?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: It's not the Technology

If FedEx or UPS opened every package and made a digital copy of the contents and put it in a NSA database, people would be up in arms. We’d have politicians grandstanding, lawsuits being filed by attorney generals everywhere, and people marching in the streets. Why is it acceptable when Microsoft or Google do it?

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