Posts tagged ‘American Civil Liberties Union’

November 19, 2012

The U.S. wiretapping law is an infringement of citizens’ privacy

By Krista Brooks

Published Wednesday, October 31, 2012 – The Daily 49er

Yesterday, the Supreme Court held a hearing to challenge the 2008 wiretap law, which allows the government to listen to and record American’s phone calls and emails. The case came after several U.S. Supreme Court justices suggested to lawyers and civil right activists to challenge this federal law.

Former President George W. Bush authorized this law, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), shortly after Sept. 11 for the National Security Agency to intercept communication between suspected terrorists overseas and their U.S. connections without a warrant. The law was extended to any American communication, but foreigners abroad must be targeted first.

The range of people under this surveillance is broad. From foreigners to citizens without a criminal record to any American making an out-of-country call, anybody can be under surveillance. The federal law allows any telephone or email communication to be intercepted in the U.S., regardless of any suspicion of wrongdoing. This information is recorded and stored in a database that is never deleted.

There have been cases taken to the court by citizens suing for the invasion of privacy, but they have not succeeded. The cases have fallen short because there is no evidence to prove that wiretapping has brought any harm to these citizens — aside from infringing on their constitutional right to privacy.

The group of human rights activists, legal and media organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union, are fighting to repeal this law because it is a catch-22.

The government claims that citizens cannot challenge the law without proof that their communication was under surveillance, yet this information is strictly secret.

The law protects phone companies from being sued for allowing the wiretapping as well, so Americans have no control over this infringement of privacy.

Supporters of the repeal claim that this gridlocked law is unconstitutional as the government has ensured we can do nothing about it.

This law was passed in lieu of fear instilled by Sept. 11. Many felt safer knowing the government was taking control of the terrorism acts overseas, but was there enough interception of this communication to wave our civil right of privacy?

FISA negates our democratic process by eliminating any other courts from taking part. The FISA court meets in private and will not allow the public to alter the act.

Four years later, action towards the law’s repeal have been set in motion. This hearing will not determine whether or not the law can reside but will be tried for allowing citizens to sue. It will not address whether it is lawful or not, yet it will pave the road for future measures.

Krista Brooks is a junior journalism major and the assistant opinions editor for the Daily 49er.

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