16 February 2014
National Security Agency or National Secrecy Agency? After traumatic events and experiences, we as human beings, tend to make irrational decisions based off of the fear of our well being. On September 11th many lives were lost and this made us realize that, as a country, we needed to make some changes in our security system. However, the changes that the government made were kept from the United States citizens and enacted with out public consent or approval. The day that George W. Bush ordered the NSA warrantless surveillance act, is the day that we lost all of the privacy and entitlement that we were promised when the Bill of Rights was drafted and finalized. What the New York Times did, in my opinion, was just, only because American civilians deserved to know what was going on behind closed doors.
When the framers of the Constitution created the Bill of Rights, they did not take into account that in the future, there would be telephones and electronic communication. As a result of this, the Bill of Rights does not specifically say that it is lawfully wrong to tap into the wireless or landline communications of the American population only because the government wants to monitor terroristic threats. Instead, the Fourth Amendment states that “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath of Affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized” (Patterson 128). To put it in simpler terms, this amendment states that a person is entitled to their own privacy regarding their house, themselves, their papers, and even their conversations. In order to violate this privacy, a warrant is needed. That warrant must state what exactly is being under surveillance, when the search is taking place, and what is being searched for. The only way that law enforcement may interfere with someone’s privacy is if a persons’ life or the security of the country is at danger. Then, and only then, can law enforcement search or spy without a warrant.
When having a conversation over the phone, it is assumed that the conversation and what is discussed is private. It is not expected that there would be a secret listener somewhere on the other end. If you think about it, phone conversations are not too different from the letters we receive in the mail or conversations we have person to person. It is expected that our mail, calls, or messages stay confidential and it will get delivered to the correct person, without any worries of it being opened, and read during the journey. If the Bill of Rights states that it is illegal for the government to read our mail, or “papers”, then what Bush considered to be okay, as far as listening into our conversations, without proper warrants, should be considered highly illegal.
Pursuing into this further, not only does the Bill of Rights support our privacy rights it also stresses the right to freedom of speech. What the New York Times published is covered by the First Amendment, the freedom of speech. Included in freedom of speech is the freedom of press. The Supreme Court declared “any attempt by government to prevent expression carries “a ‘heavy presumption’ against its constitutionality” (Patterson 117). Meaning that before the New York Times published this article about George W. Bush, the government could legally do nothing about it. The Supreme Court has also stated that “true statements disseminated by the media have ‘full constitutional protection” (Patterson 118). This statement means that because the New York Times published only truthful facts, the government could not label it as unconstitutional or illegal. This still does not cover all of the reasons why the New York Times were not committing wrongful acts for