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Wiretapping . Warrantless Wiretapping: Legitimate Tool against Terrorism or Violation of Privacy Rights? Recently it was disclosed that the U.S. Government (USG) has been engaging in warrantless wiretapping against U.S. citizens. This was revealed by the New York Times in December 2005.

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Wiretapping

Warrantless Wiretapping: Legitimate Tool against Terrorism or Violation of Privacy Rights?

Recently it was disclosed that the U.S. Government (USG) has been engaging in warrantless wiretapping against U.S. citizens.

This was revealed by the New York Times in December 2005.

Immediately a firestorm of controversy broke out.

On the con side, many people said that it was a violation of civil liberties, the right of privacy. This included several members of Congress.

On the pro side, others defended the administration, stating that the warrantless wiretapping is a legitimate tool to fight terrorism.


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What is behind this controversy?

  • From 2002 on, based on an Executive Order by President Bush, the National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting warrantless phone taps on people in the U.S. calling overseas, in an attempt to combat terrorism. NSA monitored international phone calls and emails of 100s or even 1000s of people to track “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda.

  • Then, on January 15 Senator Specter (Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee), mentioned impeachment and criminal prosecution as potential remedies if President Bush broke the law. He scheduled hearings for February 6.

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  • The Administration was not long in responding. President Bush stated he would do everything in his power, under our laws and Constitution, to protect the American people from the continuing threat of Al Qaeda.


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  • The issues revolve around the Constitution itself, and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

  • FISA has both criminal and civil liability for intentional electronic surveillance under color of law but not authorized by statute.

  • The legal community is split as to whether FISA has been violated.

  • The authorization by President Bush to NSA bypasses the wording of FISA, but relies on the Constitution and case law.

  • The Constitution, Article II, states that the President is Commander in Chief, with the responsibility to protect the nation.

  • The question then becomes whether this rule apples to foreign intelligence.


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The Student Poll Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

  • Do you believe that under the U.S. Constitution right to privacy, the Government should be able to wiretap anyone, any time just in case they might be into terrorism?

  • Do you believe that under the U.S. Constitution right of privacy, the Government should only be allowed to wiretap using a court order?

  • Do you believe that under the U.S. Constitution right of privacy, the Government should only be allowed to wiretap if there is probable cause AND using a court order?

  • If the Bush Administration violated the law in its recent warrantless wiretapping case, should the President be impeached?

  • I planned to ask the poll questions to a random group of Roosevelt students, with equal numbers of black and white, male and female. There were 12 students from each of the categories.

  • My prediction was that students as a whole would be more against the wiretapping than the general public so far. Of that group, blacks would be more suspicious than whites of the Government, and women would be more suspicious than men and thus against warrantless wiretapping.


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The Results of the Poll Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

  • As to question 1, only 3 individuals, 2 white males and one white female, answered yes. These individuals would completely disregard the Constitution and trust the Government to never abuse the right to wiretap people. None of the blacks agreed with question 1.

  • As to question 2, there were 2 white males, 3 white females, and 4 each black males and females. This group would not even allow limited wiretaps for terrorism unless a court ordered it.

  • For question 3, the results were the same as question 2. Thus, it is apparent that the group believed that a court order would only be issued if there was probable cause. However, the FISC court issues wiretap orders without actual probable cause. This fact is not well known by the populace. Therefore, this question should be drop from the poll.

  • Finally, for question 4, 4 white males, 5 white females, 6 black males and all 8 black females thought that Bush should be impeached if he broke the law with wiretapping.

  • Overall, the results of the poll showed that blacks are far more suspicious than whites about Government wiretapping, even if it is supposed to be against terrorism. It appears that the blacks believe that even if there is terrorism, the Government will abuse the right to wiretap without any protections, such as probably cause and a court order. They take a far more restrictive view of the Constitution than many whites, many of whom seem to think the Constitution can be relaxed in times of danger from the common enemy. Women also seemed to be somewhat more restrictive than males in preventing wiretapping.


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Conclusion Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

  • Even though most people have not analyzed the issue in depth, most people support the idea that courts should be involved in approving wiretapping, even against terrorism. This follows the basic rules of our Constitution. Students seem to be more suspicious of the Bush Administration than the public at large, and among them, blacks are more suspicious than whites.


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Work Cited Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

  • Cscs|bio (2006). Poll: Mist Uneasy About Bush's Wiretrapping. http://www.tpmcafe.com/node/26533

  • Submission (2006). Coastal Post Online. New Zogby Poll Shows Majority of Americans Support Impeaching Bush for Wiretapping. http://www.coastalpost.com/06/02/13_.html

  • Angus Reid read global (February 14, 2006). Angus Reid Consultant. Polls Show Mixed Feelings on U.S. Wiretaps. http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/index.cfm


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