Washington D.C: The US intelligence community has called for courts to compel citizens to turn over “all past, current and future hand-written notes” to US authorities.
The US Supreme Court reacted with ‘great surprise’ after the request, which would essentially render all written correspondence the ‘temporary property of the US intelligence community’ until stated otherwise.
The shock move follows concerns by the Trump Administration that the electronic monitoring of citizens’ communication does not go far enough in preventing potential terrorist attacks.
Last week, the CIA suggested that in a bid to thwart government surveillance of their activities, terrorists could be “passing hand-written notes to one another” to communicate, rather than using mobile phones or computers.
In a statement yesterday, an FBI spokesperson echoed these concerns, saying it was in the “vital national security interests” of governments around the world to consider similar legislation in order to “take the War on Terror” to the “next logical phase”.
However, the calls have prompted outrage among privacy groups and civil libertarians who say it is “unconscionable” to request such private information.
A spokesman for a California-based civil rights group said that the “Orweillian” Patriot Act and the “sobering reality of CCTV cameras on every street corner” meant that citizens’ privacy rights had already been “stripped bare”.
“Why not just kick in people’s doors and put cameras in all of the rooms of their houses? It would be less tedious, and probably just as legal,” a spokesman for the group said.
Germany, Canada, Australia and France are considering similar laws amid an overhaul of how intelligence agencies collect citizens’ data.
Australia’s Attorney-General, George Brandis, recently said the country’s metadata collection laws were “perhaps not going far enough” and that ASIO – the Federal Government’s main intelligence arm – should also collect “hand-written notes”.
“In the War on Terror, no one is safe, so it’s absolutely necessary to take precautionary measures like this,” he said in Canberra on Friday.
When a journalist remarked that such a move would breach the Australia Privacy Act, Brandis replied that the country’s revamped anti-terrorism laws supersede the Act and that “people should not worry if they have nothing to hide”.