January 03, 2018 The Modern Law Library

How a Quaker’s suit against the defense secretary in the 1970s still affects surveillance cases

By Lee Rawles

You have reason to believe you’re being monitored by the government—that they are following you and cataloging everywhere you go and everyone you talk to. The knowledge haunts you, and it has a chilling effect on everything you do. But can you sue to stop it, or even to find out whether it's really happening?

In this month’s episode, the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles speaks with Jeffrey Vagle about his new book, Being Watched: Legal Challenges to Government Surveillance about the current challenges to government surveillance, and Laird v. Tatum, a seminal U.S. Supreme Court case in 1972, the effects of which are still being felt today.

In Being Watched, Vagle tells the story of Arlo Tatum, a Quaker and anti-war activist who went to prison twice as a conscientious objector rather than sign up for the World War II and Korean War drafts. When Tatum discovered in 1970 that U.S. military intelligence had been following and gathering intelligence on him, he sued the Secretary of Defense. What happened next has had lingering ramifications.

In This Podcast:

Lee Rawles
Jeffrey Vagle is a lecturer in law and the executive director of the Center for Technology, Innovation and Competition at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. His research interests include surveillance law, cryptography and cybersecurity law, electronic privacy, internet architecture, and networked economies and societies. Vagle is also a veteran who served in both the U.S. Marine Corps as an infantry noncommissioned officer and in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer. He is the author of Being Watched: Legal Challenges to Government Surveillance.