Tuesday, May 17, 2011

When Is Enough Enough? Government Surveillance Skyrockets in 2010

The Department of Justice has just released its annual report on its surveillance activities for 2010 including its use of secret court orders, National Security Letters (NSLs) and electronic and physical surveillance — and boy were they busy. The report disclosed a dramatic increase in surveillance of Americans between 2009 and 2010, and these statistics don’t even include surveillance conducted under the new FISA Amendments Act. 

The government more than quadrupled its use of secret court subpoenas, known as 215 orders, which give the government access to "any tangible thing," including a wide range of sensitive information such as financial records, medical records, and even library records. In 2010, the FBI made 96 applications, up from just 21 in 2009. 

There was also a huge increase in NSLs, which allow the FBI to demand records related to a broad range of personal information, including financial records, a list of e-mail addresses with which a person has corresponded, and even the identity of a person who has posted anonymous speech on a political website, all without the permission or supervision of a court. In 2010, the FBI more than doubled the number of U.S. persons it surveilled with NSLs, requesting 24,287 NSLs on 14,212 people, up from 14,788 NSLs on 6,114 people the year before. The FBI also increased its electronic and physical surveillance, making 1,579 applications to wiretap and physically search individuals’ property last year, up from 1,376 the year before.