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The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2007
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III. On Civil and Political Rights

The freedom and rights of individual citizens are being increasingly marginalized in the United States.

The House of Representatives and the Senate of the US Congress passed the Protect America Act of 2007 on August 3, and August 4, 2007, respectively. The act enables the US administration to eavesdrop terrorist suspects in the United States without court approval. It also permits intelligence services to conduct electronic surveillance on digital communications between terrorist suspects outside the United States if the communications are routed through the country (The so-called Protect America Act, http://public.findlaw.com, August 10, 2007). According to a report by the Washington Post on March 10, 2007, the FBI improperly obtained personal information on more than 52,000 people without court oversight through the use of national security letters (NSLs) from 2003 to 2005. Verizon Communications, the second largest telecom company in the United States, disclosed that the FBI sought information identifying not just a person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. From January 2005 to September 2007, Verizon provided data to federal authorities "on an emergency basis" 720 times. The records included Internet protocol addresses as well as phone data. In that period, Verizon turned over information a total of 94,000 times to federal authorities armed with a subpoena or court order. The information was mainly used for a range of criminal investigations including counter-terrorism investigations (The Washington Post, October 16, 2007). In August 2007, the United States' National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell revealed that fewer than 100 people inside the United States are monitored under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants. However, he said, thousands of people overseas are monitored (The Associated Press, August 23, 2007). The FBI is embarking on a 1 billion US dollars effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, called Next Generation Identification, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad. The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny (FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics, The Washington Post, December 22, 2007). Statistics show that the government's illegal dragnet electronic surveillance has put sensitive personal information from millions of people at risk. 477 breaches into government databases were found in 2006 alone. More than 162 million records were reported lost or stolen in 2007, triple the 49.7 million that went missing in 2006 (USA Today website, December 10, 2007). In July 2007, the Homeland Security Department granted more than 4 million US dollars to install 175 video cameras on the streets of cities including St. Paul, Madison (Wisconsin State) and Pittsburgh. The Boston Globe estimated that up to hundreds of millions of dollars were being spent by the department to install new surveillance systems around the country, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" (The Boston Globe, August 12, 2007).

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