A highly critical report on the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records warned that harassment of tea party groups is a “compelling danger” if the government continues its collection of personal information on such a massive scale.
The report was published by the federal government’s independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board on Thursday.
“Once collected by the U.S. government, information is always at risk of being appropriated for new purposes,” according to the board.
Already, it said, “numerous federal agencies have exerted pressure on the NSA to share its data and surveillance tools for investigations into drug trafficking, cyber-attacks, money laundering, counterfeiting, and even copyright infringement.”
But the report said a “more compelling danger is that personal information collected by the government will be misused to harass, blackmail, or intimidate, or to single out for scrutiny individuals or groups adhering to minority religions or holding unpopular views.”
And the privacy board immediately pointed to IRS harassment of tea party groups: “In recent months, allegations have emerged at the national and local level involving the targeting of particular groups based on their ideology or religion — whether it be the Internal Revenue Service’s reported singling out of tea party-affiliated organizations or the New York Police Department’s alleged secret labeling of entire mosques as terrorist organizations.”
According to the bipartisan board, established in 2007 by order of the 9/11 Commission, “the immense power afforded the government by routine collection of all telephone records enables significant abuse and intrusion into Americans’ privacy.”
The report, which called for an end to the NSA’s bulk gathering of telephone metadata, also warned that the government’s legal justifications could extend to the collection of all private information, not just people’s communications, as the technology to do so becomes available.
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