WASHINGTON, DC—Privacy-rights advocates from the American Privacy Rights Center refused to release a heavily researched report on the new Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 Monday.
"The report contains 475 pages of information about the ways in which the impending overhaul of U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies will violate the privacy of individuals," APRC chief counsel and media director Michael Zeller said. "But it has a great deal of sensitive material that we'd rather not divulge. We feel it would be best to keep our findings safe from intruding eyes—government or otherwise."
"Wait…who is this?" Zeller added. "How did you get this number?"
Further attempts to reach Zeller at his office, on his cell phone, by e-mail, at his home, and at his children's school were unsuccessful.
Last month, Zeller openly criticized government intelligence measures for "extending the business of intelligence-gathering into the lives of private individuals" in the fourth paragraph of a confidential internal memo obtained by the press. In a conversation with a coworker later the same day, Zeller said "the government is taking advantage of the lack of explicit restrictions on the monitoring of electronic correspondence and cell-phone communications in current right-to-privacy laws."
More recently, an APRC staffer criticized the civil-liberties board established by the intelligence-reform bill.
"The board was meant to serve as a safeguard against government abuses, but as outlined in the bill, it would have no legal authority to challenge measures taken by the government against private citizens in the name of security," said Julie Grafney, a privacy-rights lawyer who asked that her name not be used. "Our organization prepared a list of recommendations for more-adequate provisions. Unfortunately, the items on that list are confidential."
Asked if the report contains any information about the new federal standards for state-issued drivers' licenses, Grafney said the APRC's position on the matter is "not open to discussion—not now, not ever."
American Civil Liberties Union spokesman Bob Kearney said privacy is "one of the most important domestic issues facing Americans today."
"Citizens should be armed with the information they need to protect their private lives," Kearney said. "That is why the ACLU is attempting to force the APRC to release this report by bringing a Freedom of Information Act suit against the organization."
Added Kearney: "What vital information about privacy are they trying to hide? The American public has a right to know."
The APRC has previously compiled detailed reports on skin-implantable medical-record microchips, "black boxes" for automobiles, and GPS-enabled cell phones, but none of the documents were released to the public. Nonetheless, each came under public scrutiny. Hackers posted the first on the Internet, portions of the second were recovered from the APRC's garbage, and the notes for the third were seized during an FBI raid.