As the government expands its secret travel-based surveillance of average citizens beyond the airport, rating them for their 'threat' to national security; individuals are fighting back in the courts, congress and sometimes within agencies themselves. At stake is whether American constitutional protections and even traditional legal concepts like "innocent until proven guilty" and due process will survive in Post 9/11 America.
In the wake of 9/11, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CPB) built mass surveillance programs, keeping secret files on ordinary travelers and rating Americans on their potential threat to security. Few terrorists have been caught. But Americans' traditional constitutional rights have been suspended. And long-established American legal concepts like "innocent until proven guilty" the right to due process, a trial or hearing before punishment have been tossed aside routinely in the name of national security. As these agencies expand their surveillance and informant campaigns into train stations, bus stations, sports arenas and other venues of daily life, traditional American values are threatened.
For the past year, we've interviewed former high ranking TSA and DHS officials, privacy advocates from the ACLU, EPIC and Brennan Center at NYU as well as ordinary citizens and lawyers who have challenged government overreach, including the lawyers who tried the first challenge to the ultra-secret "No-Fly-List." Weaving their interviews with airport surveillance footage, citizen video, photos and headlines, this film documents the ongoing battle to preserve American constitutional rights and values against the expanding activities of the surveillance state.
Is what's good for privacy actually better for security? Can we preserve our constitutional rights and legal traditions and still guard the country against terrorist threats? In addressing these essential questions, It is encouraging to see how much former security officials and privacy advocates actually agree.