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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 5:32am

    I think not

    They are very careful to deploy the asset exactly as instructed by the monied interests.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 5:35am

    Our president thinks he can kill anyone for any reason, as long as it's “imminent". Also, imminent means whatever the president thinks it means. Dictionaries are wrong. The rot starts from the head.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 5:35am

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

    and so they should if they keep abusing it!! especially when they arrest people for doing something that is perfectly legal and has been since the year dot!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    CTVic, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 5:58am

    Sad state of affairs...

    It's sad when government agencies have such little oversight that it takes leakers and whistleblowers to make them start thinking about how to not abuse their authority.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TasMot (profile), Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 6:31am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Edward Teach, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 6:43am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Guardian, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 6:43am

    what we all need do

    is gather a few million and go get these devices and hten break and crack every thing they do

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    quirthanon, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 7:38am

    It's not the Technology

    I don't understand how they can't see that it's the action that's the problem, not the technology used.

    The Bill of Rights and in general most laws, seek to prevent certain actions by entities. The laws do not and should not care which tool is used to perform the action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 8:10am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Daniel, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 10:28am

        Re: Re: It's not the Technology

        Exactly! Imo warrants for digital content should be provided to the owner of said content first, giving them a chance to cooperate, and only after should they go after the company holding the data with the warrant.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Oct 23rd, 2013 @ 11:06am

          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?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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