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The U.S. government has a long history of unwarranted and invasive spying.

Although this domestic surveillance impacts the privacy rights of everyone in the country, it disproportionately targets communities of color and activists. From COINTELPRO in the 1960s to xenophobic policies instituted after 9/11 to the FBI’s recent efforts to categorize Black Lives Matter activists as a terrorist threat, the government has long skirted constitutional protections to crack down on perceived dangers.

The adoption of new law-enforcement tools at the federal, state and local levels has exacerbated racially biased policing. Technologies like Stingrays and social-media spying software are used to monitor not only criminal activities but also First Amendment-protected activities like political organizing.

Question and Answers


    Why is this a racial justice issue?

    A: From Stingray and facial-recognition technologies police use to surveil Black, Muslim and Latinx communities to America’s shameful history of racist surveillance programs targeting Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panther Party and others, government surveillance has always disproportionately impacted people of color. And in 2017, the FBI drafted a dangerous report classifying Black activists as “Black Identity Extremists” who allegedly pose a national-security threat.

    Does the government need a warrant to surveil me?

    A: Congress recently voted to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. While the intended and supposed targets of Section 702 surveillance are foreign entities, the program allows for dragnet-like monitoring of domestic phone and internet conversations. It permits the government to conduct backdoor searches into a massive NSA database containing private information about people in the United States. Meanwhile, under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the government can seek a court order to collect phone records for specific targets.

Our Work on Surveillance

We’re fighting to curb the government’s unwarranted surveillance programs and underscoring how such programs disproportionately target people of color.

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