A WaPo OpEd explores the connection between privacy, civil liberties, and the civil rights movement. The conclusion is that without privacy, the right to peaceably assemble is denied. Without that right, the civil rights movement would have been impossible.
The Supreme Court first formally identified a right to associate in NAACP v. Alabama , a 1958 case in which the state had tried to force out the NAACP with a string of measures, including a requirement that the unincorporated local associations disclose their membership lists. The court confirmed the right of associations to protect such lists and the right of individuals to participate anonymously in such associations.Naturally, for organizations dedicated to violence like Al Qaida or the KKK, the public right to safety trumps the right to privacy. But the US government has already spied on peaceful groups such as Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore, a Quaker peace group. Therefore, there is reason to believe that the NSA has denied the right to privacy that is foundational to the right to peaceably assemble. The historical civil rights movement that we celebrate in the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington could not have survived if their rights had been so violated.
In 1960 in Bates v. Little Rock , the court cited its ruling in NAACP v. Alabama, saying, “It is now beyond dispute that freedom of association for the purpose of advancing ideas and airing grievances is protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment from invasion by the States. . . . Freedoms such as these are protected not only against heavy-handed frontal attack, but also from being stifled by more subtle governmental interference.
The NSA’s data collection program is anything but narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest. Instead, it treats every American as potentially a party of interest to unlawful activity. How can that not affect how I think about my associations from this day forward?”
At least in the past, "civil liberties" was the term used by predominantly white organizations that didn't want to get involved in messy issues like the "civil rights" that African Americans fought for. But there are no civil rights without civil liberties, and no civil liberties without civil rights.
And with the NSA as it has operated under...eh... wartime conditions, there seem to be neither.