publicandprivatespace

March 9, 2011

Security: Is Our Government Unnecessarily Invading Our Privacy?

Filed under: Patriot Act — publicandprivatespace @ 9:40 am

By Kelly Seibert

America is a country of freedom, privacy, and personal space. With all the land from California to Maine, between Canada and Mexico, we use the space the way we want to. From spread out farmlands in the countryside to big, busy cities crammed with apartments, everyone has their own way of establishing their own privacy and personal space. But no matter where you live or how private you think your life is, the United States government can be one warrant away from hearing every telephone conversation that passes through your phone lines.

The government has been wiretapping America’s phone lines since 1928, but it wasn’t until fifty years afterwards that a court order was required. In times of war the warrant can be temporarily ignored, but not for long. President George W. Bush took advantage of this leniency by tasking the National Security Agency (NSA) to collect phone call records from across the country—without warrants—over the course of several years. I realize the urgency of having to prove or disprove a dangerous suspect of a plot of terrorism. The warrant can be acquired afterwards when time isn’t as much of an issue, but President Bush never backtracked to request a warrant. Judge Vaughn R. Walker believes that what President Bush did was clearly illegal. And I agree with him.

The NSA, an agency of the federal government, was created by President Truman in 1952 to protect America from foreign attacks. The NSA continues to wiretap our phone lines—now with warrants—but they aren’t the only ones with court approved access. Local police officers can obtain warrants from the state government to wiretap suspected criminals and drug dealers. In 2009, 96% of wiretaps led to the arrest of drug traffickers, who aren’t immediately threatening when compared to a protester with a bomb in his backpack. Wiretapping was once used for protecting our country from other country threats, but now the process is being used against us for less threatening crimes. It might not be illegal but it is unconstitutional. And the number of approved wiretaps increased over the course of the last decade, proof for all of which can be found in Ryan Singel’s article on police wiretapping.

Five years ago, the internet was believed to be one place where the government had little influence. My seventh grade English teacher asked the class (rather sarcastically) how long we thought that would last. And now Barack Obama is trying to extend the current wiretapping policy to grant warranted access to internet-required networking applications, such as Facebook and Blackberry cell phones. President Obama voiced his objection of the wiretapping policy when President Bush was in office, but now he peers in through every American’s front window by accepting the policy instead of fixing it to be more in-line with the constitution. Clearly, the government will not be satisfied until they have every citizen monitored like goldfish in a fishbowl. A more in-depth report can be found here.

Allowing the government to gain warranted access to our personal lives is not good for our country. We broke away from England and its ever watching eye to become our own, independent country. Now the same issue is happening with our own government. The American people have sat by for too long letting our government track our every movement because of a warrant. Being fully aware of the position our government has placed us in and having done nothing about it, very little will prevent our “democracy” from becoming totalitarian if the government chooses to make that change. I understand that some wiretaps are necessary to protect Americans from another foreign invasion, but can we believe that every tap ever performed was for the protection of the citizens of this country? Americans need to be more aware of how the government overrides the rights guaranteed to us in the United States Constitution. Warranted or not, it can no longer be ignored that the government is slowly taking over our natural right of privacy.

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4 Comments »

  1. While I agree that this is a pretty serious issue, there is a big part of me that would be alright with this. I would say the safety of the people should be one of the top, if not the top priority. If this kind of thing would help in safety, even from petty crimes, I don’t see why we should be against it. Also, I really don’t have anything incriminating to hide, so once again, no real issue with it. While I certainly do like my privacy, I guess safety is probably of more importance to me.
    ~Matt Evans

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 10:16 am | Reply

  2. Nathan Spruill
    I do agree that this seems like a problem and an issue that I would not like to deal with. I would not be happy if my privacy was being invaded this way. I understand the wiretapping of foreign phone calls and I believe that it is an important part of keeping this country safe because it has been proven in more and more incidents such as 9/11 that phone calls were used to plan attacks against us. I strongly agree that this wiretapping does not need to be brought within our own country unless there is strong reason to believe that the people involved are related to some kind of plan against our country or the people in it. Wiretapping by local police and for drug busts and smaller issues like that seem very unreasonable and unconstitutional. This is just invading peoples’ privacy and it is not even threatening to the country.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 11:44 am | Reply

  3. By Adrian Smith

    Wiretapping can be intrusive and an invasion of privacy if a warrant is not granted. It is also considered an invasion of privacy if someone who is not breaking the law is monitored twenty four hours a day. But it is not an inavasion of privacy if it helps bring people to justice. The only reason the government would want a warrant to wiretap someone is if there is suspicion that he or she is breaking the law. Wiretapping can help catch a criminal before he or she commits the crime. If wiretapping a suspicious criminal can prevent some type of bombing, then wiretapping is a safety precaution. Even though exposing bomb threats is important, drug dealers are committing crimes as well. If 96% of wiretapping arrest were of drug dealers, then wiretapping is doing something. That statistic shows that there are far more drug dealers than bomb makers in America. It’s not really invasion of privacy if the police or government needs a warrant to make it legal. The warrant is the reason why they feel the person using the phone is suspicious. Wiretapping is just another form of security in order to keep criminal activity away from ordinary law abiding citizens.

    Comment by publicandprivatespace — March 9, 2011 @ 1:19 pm | Reply

    • I guess I should have mentioned that 19% of police wiretaps caught criminals, and of that 19%, 96% of the criminals were drug dealers. It’s on the website link at the bottom of the paragraph.

      Comment by Kelly Seibert — March 13, 2011 @ 12:28 pm | Reply


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