The government should not engage in the surveillance
of their citizens in the interests of national security.
After the occurrence of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush signed a law, the PATRIOT Act. The PATRIOT Act made it easier for the law enforcement officials to use certain techniques such as wiretapping and other surveillance technologies to aid in the war against terrorism. The reason why this topic needs to be addressed is located in the following quote: "The probability that people are terrorists given that NSA's system of surveillance identifies them as terrorists is only p=0.2308, which is far from one and well below flipping a coin. NSA's [National Security Agency's] domestic monitoring of everyone's email and phone calls is useless for finding terrorists"(Rudmin, Alston P29). Many people argue that the government has gone too far with allowing violations of the Bill of Rights in the name of protecting the country from terrorists. Although some people argue that the government should use all means to fight against terrorism, the government should not be engaged in the surveillance of their citizens in the interests of national security because people expect privacy in their communications, travel and personal records and activities.
Some people argue that the government should use all means to fight against terrorism. Alexander Hamilton, one of our nation’s founding fathers, believed that the government needed to have a free hand in protecting the people. “The power to protect the nation ought to exist without limitation, it is impossible to foresee or define the extend and variety of national exigencies, or the correspondent extent and variety of the means which may be necessary to satisfy them” (Yoo P7). Hamilton believed that the presidents power to protect the nation as commander in chief should not be limited. Many people and even parts of the government have adopted a slogan meant to ease worries over surveillance. “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear” (Solove P4). The intent of this is that you should not be afraid of the government examining every aspect of your life if you have done nothing wrong in the first place. The arguments presented to support unlimited government powers of surveillance lend themselves to the end justifying any means.
Many believe the best way to fight terrorism is to monitor everything passing through communications channels regardless of the source or destination. “The best way to find an al Qaeda operative is to look at all email, text and phone traffic between Afghanistan and Pakistan and the U.S. This might involve the filtering of innocent traffic, just as roadblocks and airport screenings do” (Yoo P5). In 2008, The United States Senate determined to do just that. The Protect America Act (PAA) expanded upon the FISA Act of 1978 (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act) to allow more flexibility in monitoring internal communication for intelligence purposes. The Protect America Act substantially changes the intent and protections included in the original FISA Act. “The FISA Act was originally passed to prevent abuse, not allow for more of it… conclusion that the Protect America Act is intended to reduce the ability of the original FISA legislation to preclude abuse” (Alston P35). The PAA allows for monitoring of communications without judicial warrant within the United States. The PAA also allows government agencies to compel telecommunications companies to provide access and information while at the same time protecting them from prosecution for violating privacy laws. “Failure to obey an order of the FISA Court may be punished as a contempt of court” (Alston P11). “The Act compels an action and simultaneously removes all responsibility for that action” (Alston P13). The FISA Court is not a judicial court, and meets in secrecy. Communications within the United States...
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