The case by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) against AT & T presents a clear infringement upon personal privacy. The decision to allow the spy agency- National Security Agency (NSA) exclusive access to telephone conversations and email communications of its consumers violates the fourth amendment, which guarantees every American ‘the right to be let alone,” which includes privacy of private, sensitive information.
Generally, privacy is “the expectation that confidential personal information disclosed in a private place will not be disclosed to third parties, when that disclosure would cause either embarrassment or emotional distress to a person of reasonable sensitivities” (Standler, 1997). It is without doubt, indeed, that no individual would like to hear their bedroom conversations heard in republic, or shrug it off if they knew somebody else at Langley was analyzing their private emails and messages sent over the phone.
These surveillance programs are in contravention of the US constitution and privacy safeguards instituted by Congress. The fourth amendment prohibits unwarranted intrusion into individuals’ privacy, and the NSA surveillance was not warranted. As it were, they were conducted legal authorization or the approval of the court. Even if the government was ‘collecting criminal evidence,’ in the wake of terrorist attacks on US soil, the fact that the consumers were not aware of the surveillance makes it a violation of privacy rights.
Indeed, it is reported that the then President George Bush acknowledged authorizing the surveillance as a strategy to track and monitor terrorists who might be operating inside the US. However, some of his senior administrators are on record of confessing that “the President’s authorization went beyond the surveillance of terrorists and conceded that the program did not comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” (Sandler, 1997). In any case, it is provided by the Fifth Amendment that “no person, however guilty, shall be compelled to stand as witness of himself in any criminal case.
” In a ruling of the first privacy case in America in 1928, Olmstead vs. the United States, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis argued that it was unconstitutional to collect evidence from individuals without their knowledge and consent. In the case, Omlstead was implicated for illegally distributing alcoholic beverages, on evidence wire-tapped from his telephone conversations. The NSA surveillance program might be justified under circumstances which compromise national security.
After the 9/11 attacks by terrorists believed to have connections to Al Qaeda, it becomes a matter of national concern to monitor electronic communications both domestically and internationally. This is more so the case since terrorist groups have taken advantage of technological revolutions in communication to network, coordinate, plan and execute their attacks. Thus, as far as ensuring the safety of Americans is concerned, the NSA has a right, regardless the constitutionality of such a right or the authority sanctioning it, to go the extra mile necessary to provide that security.
Nonetheless, the protocol for collecting evidential information to press criminal charges against culprits is clearly stated by the law. Acting outside the bounds of legal provisions infringes personal privacy, which is clearly the case of the AT & T and NSA collaboration. This is a government conspiracy to deny Americans their freedom to express themselves freely, which experts have termed as not mere wire-tapping, but a country-tapping project on ordinary Americans by NSA.
In conclusion, the bottom line is the unwarranted manner in which the surveillance was conducted, without the consumers’ knowledge. It rests with the provisions of the US constitution. It is every American’s right “to be let alone. And to guard against the violation of that right, “every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed a breach of the Fourth Amendment” (Avakov, 164).
Works Cited Avakov, Aleksandr V. Plato’s dreams realized: surveillance and citizen rights from KGB to FBI. Algora Publishing, New York, 2007. Brandis Louis. U. S. Supreme Court: Olmstead vs US, 277 U. S 438 (1928). June 4 1928. Retrieved August 11, 2010 < http://faculty. uml. edu/sgallagher/olmstead. htm Standler, Ronald B. Privacy Law in the USA. May 26 1998. Retrieved August 11, 2010 < http://www. rbs2. com/privacy. htm