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Government Should Not Spy on Peaceful Groups

Statement by ACLU-WA Executive Director Kathleen Taylor:

The release of files showing surveillance of local activists is part of a troubling pattern by the government of spying on peaceful organizations. Targeting groups such as Raging Grannies does not make us safer and interferes with the right to protest government policies. The government needs to focus on real threats to public safety and not presume that people pose a threat simply because they express dissent.

As a society, we must be smart about security and act so that we can be both safe and free. The government is spending billions of dollars on the surveillance activities and the proliferation of databases by the NSA, CIA, the Pentagon, FBI, Homeland Security, and likely by other agencies that have not yet come to light. The government is casting its net so broadly that it sweeps up information about the lives of ordinary Americans instead of focusing on suspicious activity. As a result of surveillance efforts by the NSA, government agents are being overwhelmed with information about innocent people. The Washington Post reported that the federal National Counterterrorism Center now maintains a central repository of 325,000 names. Clearly they are not all terrorism suspects or people who allegedly aid them.

The rush to a Surveillance Society is doubly tragic: Not only does it threaten our privacy, but it is likely to sap resources from more effective measures that actually would make us safer.