Government Settles With Researcher Put on Watch List For Supporting Bradley Manning

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
May 30 2013 5:41 PM

Government Settles With Researcher Put on Watch List For Supporting Bradley Manning

116289528
David House, a founding member of the Bradley Manning Support Network

Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images

Back in 2010, MIT researcher David House was working to raise legal funds for WikiLeaks suspect Bradley Manning. For his efforts, it seems that House’s name was placed on a watch list database alongside suspected terrorists and criminals.

Ryan Gallagher Ryan Gallagher

Ryan Gallagher is a journalist who reports on surveillance, security, and civil liberties.

After returning from a vacation in Mexico in late 2010, House arrived at a Chicago airport to board a flight back to Boston. But the then 23-year-old activist, who helped set up the Bradley Manning Support Network, was detained by Homeland Security officials who, without a warrant, confiscated his laptop, video camera, cellphone, and USB drive. House was interrogated about whether he had any connection to WikiLeaks and quizzed about his relationship with Manning, the Army private accused of leaking thousands of classified government documents.

Advertisement

The incident prompted House to launch legal action in the district court against the government for violations of his constitutional rights. He alleged that he had been specifically targeted for his political beliefs and activism, accusing the DHS of violating both the First and Fourth Amendments by confiscating his laptop and other devices, which were held by the authorities for 49 days before they were returned by mail. The government countered in a motion to dismiss that there were no “factual allegations” showing that House had been targeted because of his work with the Manning support group. Furthermore, the government said, performing a “routine search” of his electronic devices without a warrant should not be a problem because doing so wouldn’t “impede the future activities” of the Bradley Manning Support Network.

Last week, however, House won a significant victory in the case. With the help of the ACLU, he reached a settlement with the government, which agreed to destroy all of the data it obtained from his laptop and other devices when they were first confiscated. Notably, the government also acknowledged as part of the settlement that House was on a Homeland Security watch list database called “TECS Lookout.” According to government guidance, the lookout system is supposed to flag people who enter the United States who are deemed of law enforcement interest. It features the names of drug smugglers, criminals, and suspected terrorists—reportedly among them until recently was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the deceased Boston Marathon bombings suspect.

That House’s name appeared on this database, in all likelihood as a direct result of his lawful political activism, is a stark illustration of the extreme nature of the U.S. government’s aggressive pursuit of anyone remotely associated to WikiLeaks—and comes at a time when even President Obama has expressed concern about the potential “over reach” of leak investigations. House’s appearance on the TECS list also discredits the government’s previous attempts to play down and dismiss the suggestion that he was specifically targeted for his politics and role with the Manning support group. If there were any other, legitimate reason for monitoring him, the government would almost certainly have disclosed it during the case.

As part of the settlement, the government agreed that it would make sure House’s name would no longer be “routinely accessible to customs officers" on the watch list. But it also made sure to inform him that he “may continue to be subject to lawful searches and inspections” and said that the settlement was not “an admission or presumption of wrongdoing.” House, of course, doesn’t agree—and he’s celebrating a triumph.

“The government's surrender of this data is a victory through vital action not only for the citizens put at risk,” he said in a statement, “but also for anyone who believes that Americans should be free to support political causes without fearing retaliation from Washington.”

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

TODAY IN SLATE

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your children is perfectly legal. 

Ken Burns on Why Teddy Roosevelt Would Never Get Elected in 2014

Cops Briefly Detain Django Unchained Actress Because They Thought She Was a Prostitute

Minimalist Cocktail Posters Make Mixing Drinks a Cinch

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest of jewels.

Books

Rainbow Parties and Sex Bracelets

Where teenage sex rumors come from—and why they’re bad for parents and kids.

Books

You Had to Be There

What we can learn from things that used to be funny.

Legendary Critic Greil Marcus Measures and Maps Rock History Through 10 Unlikely Songs

Catfish Creator Nev Schulman’s Book Is Just Like Him: Self-Deluded and Completely Infectious

Behold
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 14 2014 7:10 PM Watch Michael Winslow Perform Every Part of “Whole Lotta Love” With Just His Voice
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?