Wire Tapping

Former President Bush came out with a statement on the bill saying, “protect[s] the liberties of our citizens while maintaining the vital flow of intelligence.” This is hard to believe because 4th amendment was violated in searching through without a warrant. Also it prevented people from pursuing pursuit of happiness because they could not achieve the job gratification from the inability to do their job. Congress stated it was only for foreign calls, however it was hard to just limit it to foreign calls. To connect the dots many of the suspects could have been in the US and many of their friends could have surveillance.

These two laws after 9/11 were the stepping stones to the NSA today. Since the government and people were shocked by the 9/11 attacks, that the government felt like they had to react. It was especially rare that it happened on US, which forced the government to react faster and with less deliberation, because the people wanted answer "The evil incident to invasion of the privacy of the telephone is far greater than that involved in tampering with the mails. Whenever a telephone line is tapped, the privacy of the persons at both ends of the line is invaded, and all conversations between them upon any subject, and although proper, confidential, and privileged, may be overheard. Moreover, the tapping of one man's telephone line involves the tapping of the telephone of every other person whom he may call, or who may call him. As a means of espionage, writs of assistance and general warrants are but puny instruments of tyranny and oppression when compared with wire tapping." -Justice Louis Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928)

There is no way of knowing how many lives have been saved or how many innocent people's privacy was invaded when the government decided to monitor, by wiretapping, what they deem "people of concern." Who are these people and just what exactly is the government looking for? Wiretapping is any interception of a telephone transmission by accessing the signal itself. After the attacks of 911 the Patriot Act was designed to strengthen domestic security by trying to identify and stop terrorist. The FBI was allowed to search telephone, email and financial records without a court order. The US government, with assistance from major telecommunications carriers including AT&T, has engaged in a massive illegal dragnet surveillance of domestic communications and communications records of millions of ordinary Americans since at least 2001. The fourth amendment prohibits unreasonable search and seizures and requires a warrant to be sanctioned and supported by probable cause. Does the Patriot Act violate your fourth amendment in order to protect you against domestic terrorism?

The discussion about wiretapping started back with the 9/11 attacks. Attacks on US soil are rare and these unprecedented attacks forced the government to make drastic moves. After 9/11, the Patriot Act was passed by Congress, which gave the President more power to fight terrorism. The Patriot Act also amended the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. This amended act was to focus mainly on terrorism; the act originally stated it was for electronic surveillance between foreign powers. So former President George W. Bush, ordered the NSA to look into communication with Al Qaida. So in 2006 under a new act called “Protect America Act,” phone call records were collected for millions of Americans by all major telecommunication companies. Many critics came out criticizing the new policy about violating the 4th amendment for warrantless searches. The government policy was trying to limit terrorism and had the power to do so under the Patriot Act. However, the Protect America Act (PAA) did not really specify what languages are they targeting or where exactly. The main concern with the PAA was that there was no one really monitoring it, and by that I mean that procedures of collecting this data were reviewed after the fact. This angered US citizens because who were they monitoring and what exactly were they looking for. The ambiguity of it was really frustrating to the American people, and the surveillance could cover a wide range of people, and a judge could not review the list each individual target. People of concerns had their friends, family and coworkers also surveyed because the government felt like they needed to get all aspect of the person of concern daily life. What is really concerning is that you could have been surveyed and would have never known it, which is troubling because it is an invasion of privacy. The government tried backing it with the defense that they were trying to find any domestic terrorism and if there was nothing to hide then a problem should not arise. But I would not feel comfortable knowing that any conversation I had or any communication could be recorded, and I would not know about this for years. For almost all Americans they do not have anything to hide, however where is the freedom in being allowed to voice one’s mind. Another troubling detail was what exactly was the NSA looking for when they are trying to find people of “concern.” Since all procedure was reviewed after the fact, it is also hard to see if they followed all procedure correctly. There is no number on how many people this act may have saved, but did we give up rights to freedom of speech and privacy to do so. Also the idea that not being the person in concern, but knowing a fellow co-worker might be gives justification to be surveyed. A lot of surveillance was used to gather information on innocent people. There is a lot of questions left to be answered after the PAA was quickly legislated because of all the holes found.

Just a year later the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) was passed by Congress. This gave the executive branch power to get all emails from Google, AT&T, and Yahoo, phone calls, and text messages where one party was being question. All of this was going to be sent to the government. This was further invasion because no warrant was needed to go through any documents of personal belongings. Some critics also argued that this would hinder foreign reporters. The reason behind this was because they felt like there was an unchecked surveillance power to see confidential work and to do their work would be compromised. Now a lot of classified journalist sources refused to speak because the US could focus on them. s. This is probably why FAA and PAA were passed. A lot of money and time was spent into these two acts, which makes it hard to justify it because no one really knows if it did its job. We cannot state for a fact that it saved 1000 lives or even 1, which is the most troubling part of all of this. The situation today has exploded after documents have been leaked by Edward Snowden. People are wondering if they really do have privacy from the government, and what steps are going to occur going forward. While these Acts were signed during the Bush’s administration, Obama’s administration does not seem like it is going to change it either. Obama has campaigned that he would end such ordeals, but ending it seems very likely right now. The money maybe could have been used better, while our time could have been used to focus on other pressing needs. But the 9/11 attacks force us to come to these results and those were the steps we chose to move forward.

Was it possible to hide your secrets from the feds with encryption? The bad boys had finally managed to out do the good guys, or so they thought. Encryption has been around for many years and it has been predicted by many that the NSA's wiretapping would stop or as the congress put it "go deaf", because of the advances made in encryption. This technique may slow down surveillance but it hasn't seemed to stop it. More and more organizations are adopting VoIP or voice over internet protocol because of its low cost and convenience. VoIP does not draw a clear line to your location or who the caller is or the recipient of the call as a traditional phone system would. The "Going Dark Program", a name given to the FBI efforts to utilize innovative technology, is designed to help agencies address challenges with conduction surveillances over new technology like VoIP. The FBI is not left without resources; they can gather information about suspects easy over the internet without a warrant. The widespread use of phones equipped with a GPS has put a tracking device on virtually every suspect. They can follow websites visited, material downloaded even people you communicate with.

The FBI and the Obama administration wants to expand power, but they are applying 20th century assumptions about surveillance to 21st century technologies. The WireTap Act of 1968 that gave the government the power to listen to our phone calls has already been amended once in order to keep up with the advanced technology of the consumer. The amendment required telecommunication companies to build wiretap capabilities into their networks however it only applies to service companies that are connected to the traditional phone grid. Former president George W. Bush also has noted that an expansion to email and other forms of communication might need investigation also. These days, there's a growing number of ways to communicate through data networks that don't use any part of the phone grid, including online tele-conferencing and virtual telephones built into instant-message programs. In the not-too-distant future, video calling is likely to be a standard feature in Web browsers, potentially turning every website into a virtual phone booth or party line.

According to Glenn Greenwald, “Verizon Wireless Phone Company is one of “America’s largest telecom providers” that is giving the National Security Association all of their customers phone records (Greenwald, 2013). During the month of April, NSA was issued a court order form that allowed them the right to go through all of Verizon customer phone records between the United States and other countries (Greenwald, 2013). More importantly, this is supposed to help the National Security Association discover any suspicious terrorist acts within the United States. Specifically, they are collecting phone numbers, locations, time, and duration of calls. Above all, throughout this whole process Verizon has not answered any questions or stated any personal quotes on this situation, along with other phone company carriers such as AT&T and Sprint (Hosenball and Whitesides, 2013). “It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks” (Greenwald, 2013). These other phones companies are not trying to be pulled into this debate whatsoever because they know that it could ruin their business image even though the government can demand all phone records from any phone company. As stated in the article, “The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing” (Greenwald, 2013). The bigger question that should be asked is do these customers feel violated and exposed?

There are a variety of politicians that understand these customers are being violated and they do not want America to feel that they cannot trust the government (Botelho and Levs, 2013). In spite of violating Verizon customers phone privacy, “the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) decided to grant the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19” (Greenwald, 2013). Before the three month time span, President Barack Obama’s Administrators decided to defend customer’s invasion of privacy by expressing on Thursday, June 6th that the “collection of the telephone records of millions of Americans as part of U.S. counterterrorism efforts, re-ignited a fierce debate over privacy even as it called the program critical to warding off an attack” (Hosenball and Whitesides, 2013). The White House is trying to make sure that the people, who are angry about this situation, understand that NSA is not listening in on the conversations so their civil liberties are being met (Hosenball and Whitesides, 2013). “Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited "metadata" is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens' communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication” (Greenwald, 2013).This increased NSA’s employees resignation because they felt that NSA’s “focus on domestic activities” was taken too far (Greenwald, 2013). Nonetheless, “At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: "The NSA's capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter."

While the past history of wiretapping has developed into the current NSA situation we are in right now. The choices we do as of today can affect the future generations. We have an option now to stop the government from listening and recording our conversation. Just having the presence of government and them overbearing over our shoulders makes it hard to digest that they are listening into our conversations. They can state that if you are not doing any wrong then you have nothing to fear about. However, I feel more comfortable knowing that I can speak my mind without being constantly monitored. One of the founding principles for this country was freedom of speech and the second we disobey that we are allowing the government to take more away. We can stop it right now, where our children and their children do not have to worry. It is a scary world we live in and the government is trying to look out for our better interest. However, the money and time could be better spent somewhere else. It is also discomforting to know that it is just phone records, the weird part is if you are going to tackle communication with terrorism that all aspects should be looked at. No one these days just talk on the phone, there is email, texting, Skype, etc… The future of this looks like bleak with the only way the government can fully enforce it is by a full fledge, all communication wiretapping. But we may never know exactly what is going to occur.

Works Cited

Masnick, Mike. "Protect America Act stories at Techdirt.." Techdirt.. N.p., 7 June 2013. Web. 12 Aug. 2013. <http://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=protect+america+act>.

Lee, Timonthy. "Congress approves sweeping surveillance powers | Ars Technica." Ars Technica. N.p., 6 Aug. 2007. Web. 13 Aug. 2013. <http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2007/08/congress-approves-sweeping-survellance-powers/>.

Singel, Ryan. "Bush Signs Spy Bill, ACLU Sues | Threat Level | Wired.com."wired.com . N.p., 10 July 2008. Web. 13 Aug. 2013. <http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2008/07/aclu-challenges/>.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, For a 50-state listing of taping consent laws, "A Practical Guide to Taping Conversations",www.rcfp.org/taping

Congressional Research Service Report, "Privacy: An Overview of Federal Statutes Governing Wiretapping and Electronic Eavesdropping" (December 3, 2009)

Botelho, J. L. (June, 12 2013). Collection of phone records stirs debate: Valuable tool or 'beyond Orwellian'? Retrieved August 15, 2013, from CNN Politics: http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/06/politics/nsa-verizon-records

Greenwald, G. (2013, June 5). NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from theguardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/nsa-phone-records-verizon-court-order

Whitesides, M. H. (2013, June 6). Obama administration defends massive phone record collection. Retrieved August 15, 2013, from Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/06/06/us-usa-wiretaps-verizon-idUSBRE95502920130606


Khaled Alzanki

I totally stand with the author on his point. Not only the US government, but many other government use wire tapping secretly. Many actually don't hide it and say publicly that they use wire tapping for the safety of the nation. Where this might be true for many cases, governments shall not, by any chance, invade the privacy of its people. In the US case, its forbidden by constitution to do such acts. Even though, there has been some evidences on the occurrence.
Our privacy, nowadays, could be easily invaded since are open to the fast growing technology which is most of the time is not secure enough.
Governments should give their people guarantees on protecting their privacy. On the other hand, people should know their rights in the law and constitution and defend themselves agaist such acts.

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