Is the Government the Real Terrorist?
“So many people in America think this does not affect them. They’ve been convinced that these programs are only targeted at suspected terrorists. I think that’s wrong…” (Frontline 1). This statement was made by Suzanne Spalding, a former CIA general (Frontline 1). As a former government worker, one would be inclined to think that she would take a stand for the government’s actions. Instead, she clearly rebukes this form of privacy invasion. Most people go through their lives with the assumption that surveillance is a complex act meant for complicated situations like terrorism or extra-terrestrial activities, and that whatever the government does has no relation to their day to day lives. An assumption that is entirely wrong.
Terrorism, the main excuse for this invasion, is defined as using violence or intimidation to achieve a particular goal (Saul 5). It is unfortunate that while the government is trying to fight terrorism, it is creating their form of terror through intimidation of the people meant to be protected. Individuals who go about their daily lives without worry now have to live in constant fear as to whether they are suspects awaiting arrest.
Forms of surveillance include attaching a bug to record a conversation, accessing private information via forums like the internet or physical watching of people involved in suspect behavior (Kling 12). In Billy Moyer’s interview, Julia Angwin states that the typical citizen can be impersonated, reflected, and placed in a police line-up, whether suspect, guilty, or innocent, based on how they obtain information. Her statement stating “I had not envisioned them going to those lengths”, indicates that even though the government is working towards national security, they are doing it using extreme methods (Moyers 1). However, she speaks of the third party amendment that gives access to information availed to others, for example, telephone companies or a digital cloud, hence justifying the use of information to gather evidence without contacting an individual.
The law equally states that officers of the law should present a warrant for privacy invasion, upon determining a 50% probability of crime occurrence. Even though former United States President George W. Bush stated that the surveillance targeted a narrow scope, an investigation conducted by Frontline discovered that the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) has previously been engaged in tapping and sifting through millions of telephone and internet conversations to unprecedented degrees without permission (Frontline 1).
In the excerpt by Christopher Slobogin, Ahmad Abdullah’s privacy is continuously violated without his knowledge or consent, to the extent of putting a tracker on his vehicle. (Slobogin 1). The series Minority Report also demonstrates how an agency’s crime division uses high-level human surveillance or infiltration to arrest people thought to be intending to commit a crime, as a prevention method (Dick, 1). What they seem to ignore is that even though they predict a probability of crime occurrence, there’s also another likelihood of the offense not occurring, as Slobogin states that “there’s always the possibility that Abdullah hasn’t committed any crime” (Slobogin 1).
Most of the law-enforcing agencies dealing with national security claim that to protect its citizens effectively, they have no choice but to infringe on some of these rights. The government is required by law and mandated to serve, protect, and preserve the national security of its citizens. Therefore, they law enforcers should find other ways to carry out their duties without the invasion of privacy. The debate on the relevance of the Fourth Amendment regarding fighting crime in this technologically advanced age is a never-ending one. However, to what cost will the government terrorize its people in the name of defending them?
Dick, Philip K. The Minority Report Summary. 2016. Web. 15 March
Frontline, WGBH Foundation. Spying on the Home Front. 15 May
- Web. 15 March 2016.
Kling, Andrew A. Surveillance. Detroit: Lucent Books, 2008.
Moyers, Billy. Moyers and Company: No Escaping Dragnet Nation.
14 March 2014. Electronic source. 15 March 2016.
Saul, Ben. Terrorism. Oxford: Hart Pub, 2012. Print.
Slobogin, Christopher. Is the Fourth Amendment Relevant in a
Technological Age? 8 Dec 2010. Web. 15 March 2016.
Slobogin, Christopher.Constitution 3.0: Freedom and
Technological Change, “Is the Fourth Amendment Relevant in
a Technological Age?” 2010. Print.