Following the tragic mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, our Technology for Liberty Project director Kade Crockford spoke with ThinkProgress about the role of surveillance in preventing acts of terror.
“We have seen again and again, with Dylann Roof, with Tsarnaevs, that none of our dragnet surveillance programs keep us safe,” said Kade Crockford with the ACLU of Massachusetts, referring to the perpetrators of recent mass shootings and bombings in Charleston and Boston. “From the local level all the way up to the FBI and NSA, the government is hoovering up data on entire communities, the vast majority of whom have not and will not commit any crime. These policies violate the Constitution and are complete failures.”
Crockford noted that some U.S. intelligence officials have openly complained that excessive surveillance actually makes their jobs harder, by amassing so much useless information that it becomes difficult to single out dangerous individuals. “Adding to the haystack does not make it easier to find the needle,” she said.
Crockford also took issue with the candidates’ complaint that there is not enough information sharing between the federal government and local law enforcement, pointing to a vast network of “fusion centers” the Department of Homeland Security set up across the country for that exact purpose. An investigation by the ACLU found that these centers have in some instances spied on anti-war activists, not suspects of terrorism. And a bipartisan Senate investigation in 2012 found that spending $1.4 billion on fusion centers did not make the nation any safer, and in some cases violated the Constitution by illegally spying on U.S. citizens who were never accused of a crime.