The United States of Surveillance

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# Overview

With the help of Congress and a secret court, President George W. Bush planted the seed for what would become a systemic abuse of law and power in the United States. Since the attacks on September 11, a barrage of laws and programs have drastically expanded the country's digital surveillance practices. Hidden behind several layers of a complex legal structure, mass surveillance infringes upon millions of Americans' rights while producing little to no meaningful results in the Global War on Terrorism.

This digital project, The United States of Surveillance, demonstrates how domestic mass surveillance programs in the United States are sanctioned, operated, and utilized by deconstructing the supporting legal frameworks. The project develops a publicly-accessible documentation website that analyzes government papers, award-winning news publications, and first-hand accounts of surveillance programs. By disentangling the juridical intricacies, the project aims to make surveillance laws, programs, and ramifications accessible and understandable to the general public. The project specifically explores how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the PATRIOT Act, the third-party doctrine, and the unitary executive work together to legalize domestic mass surveillance. It provides a brief overview of the country's most notorious mass surveillance programs, including MYSTIC, ECHELON, and FASCIA. Finally, the project reveals how programs such as these continue to be perpetuated under a FISA court exemption to the Fourth Amendment's search protections, one that effectively granted the court power to change Constitutional law without public knowledge.

By translating complex legalese into understandable explanations, The United States of Surveillance not only reveals how the current surveillance state systematically threatens the rights of citizens but provides them with information that can be used to reassert their rights to privacy and consent, as well as resist further erosion of democratic governance.

# Table of Contents

# Contribute

The project is open source; anyone can contribute to the information on this website. If you'd like to contribute, please fork our GitHub repository and begin development on your own branch. When you're ready, commit the changes to the master branch of our repositiory. Every commit is subject to extensive review for accuracy and use of impartial language. Please cite all of your sources in Chicago style.

To work on the project in a local environment, follow the steps listed below.

# Install VuePress

This step assumes that you have Node.js (opens new window) and Node Package Manager (opens new window) (NPM). If you do not have Node, please install it before you proceed.

npm install -g vuepress

# Clone the Repository

We recommend using Git to clone the repository. This will initialize your repository with git and allow you to contribute to the master branch of our project. Instead of using the command line, you can also use your preferred Git GUI (such as GitHub Desktop (opens new window)) or download the source files (opens new window).

git clone https://github.com/seb646/mass-surveillance.git

# Start the Development Environment

You can test the changes you've made by starting the VuePress development environment. This will load a page on your computer's localhost namespace where you can navigate a demo version of the website.

vuepress dev

# Editing & Creating Articles

All of our articles are written in Markdown (opens new window), with original copies hosted in our GitHub repository. The three sections of files are located in the following folders:

  • Understanding Legislation: /law
  • Surveillance Programs: /programs
  • Court Cases: /cases
  • Resources: /resources.md (root directory)

Before committing any change to our master branch, we will thoroughly review your article and your sources. Since this is an academic project, please use proper Chicago style citations (including in-text for every idea or quote that isn't your own material). Once a change is accepted, our website automatically updates itself from our GitHub repository at midnight eastern U.S. time.

# Credits

The United States of Surveillance was created by Sebastian Rodriguez (opens new window) as part of a digital humanities research project at the University of Toronto (opens new window). View a list of our contributors (opens new window).

# License

Copyright (c) 2021 Sebastian Rodriguez

Permission is hereby granted, free of charge, to any person obtaining a copy of this software and associated documentation files (the "Software"), to deal in the Software without restriction, including without limitation the rights to use, copy, modify, merge, publish, distribute, sublicense, and/or sell copies of the Software, and to permit persons to whom the Software is furnished to do so, subject to the following conditions:

The above copyright notice and this permission notice shall be included in all copies or substantial portions of the Software.

THE SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED "AS IS", WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THE WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NONINFRINGEMENT. IN NO EVENT SHALL THE AUTHORS OR COPYRIGHT HOLDERS BE LIABLE FOR ANY CLAIM, DAMAGES OR OTHER LIABILITY, WHETHER IN AN ACTION OF CONTRACT, TORT OR OTHERWISE, ARISING FROM, OUT OF OR IN CONNECTION WITH THE SOFTWARE OR THE USE OR OTHER DEALINGS IN THE SOFTWARE.