Powers of Federal Government Thesis

Pages: 10 (2588 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Terrorism

Post-9/11 Expansion of Government Powers:

The Significance of Wiretapping

Background and impact of the September 11th terrorist attacks

Significance of September 11th in history and government

Introduction of the Patriot Act

Controversy surrounding the Patriot Act

Introduction of wiretapping and the Patriot Act

Thesis statement and organization

Purposes of Wiretapping

Brief Explanation of wiretapping

9/11 Example of wiretapping

National Security Administration statement of the purpose of wiretapping

Brief History of Wiretapping in the United States

Wiretapping in the 1860s

Wiretapping in the 1890s

Early legal dealings with wiretapping

Current legal dealings with wiretapping

Significance of 9/11 on wiretapping history

An Exploration of the Arguments Concerning the Government's Expansion of Wiretapping Privileges

Exploration of the controversy

Arguments in favor of the expansion wiretapping privledges

Arguments against the expansion of wiretapping privledges


Significance of wiretapping and the post-9/11 expansion of government powers

Summary of the post-9/11 expansion of government powers

I. IntroductionBuy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Thesis on Powers of Federal Government Assignment

As the smoke from the first aircraft lingered in the New York City sky, the world knew that the events of September 11, 2001 would be forever remembered in United States history textbooks. In fact, a 2007 poll indicated that Americans consider the September 11, 2001 attacks the "most important event of their lives" ('Americans see"). Commonly accepted as the second-ever attack on United States soil -- the first was the Pearl Harbor attacks during World War II -- the events of September 11, 2001 constituted the first-ever military attack on the continental United States. The massive amount of human collateral -- around 3,000 victims -- scenes of panicked New Yorkers running through blackened streets, and camaraderie and patriotism expressed by citizens during the period shortly following the attacks are just a few of the characteristics that make the attacks both memorable and unique.

Although their impact on United States history names them as one of the most significant events to occur in decades, the attacks not only affected American history. From fast food joints selling freedom fries to bankrupt airlines who had lost the patronage of frightened customers, nearly every aspect of American life was altered by the colossal events of that day. The government was not excluded. In fact, the events of September 11, 2001 lead to some of the most radical and sweeping National Security policy in the recent era. Similarly, these policies have been some of the most controversial since the 1960s Civil Rights era, proposing actions that many believed invaded the privacy of ordinary citizens, violated the constitution, and proved that the government was above the law. This is certainly the opinion of Michael Moore, whose documentary Fahrenheit 911 presented its audience with images of ordinary citizens being persecuted for their negative feelings toward the government.

Whether or not its actions are legitimate, one cannot argue that the role of the United States government has expanded since the September 11th attacks. This has been done primarily through the installation of the Patriot Act. A controversial piece of legislation, the Patriot Act, formally known as H.R. 3162, became law at the end of October in 2001 (Library of Congress). Intended to protect the United States from terrorist actions -- "improv (ing) our nation's security" -- the official title of the bill notes its purpose to "deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, to enhance law enforcement investigatory skills, and for other purposes" (Library of Congress). Among other stipulations, this piece of legislation redefines the term terrorism, makes immigration policies and boarder crossings more stringent, and allows for a heightened information flow between terrorists and law enforcement and among law enforcement agencies. While the law also mentions the importance of maintaining civil liberties and refraining from racial discrimination, many have suggested that the act infringes on these most important constitutional rights.

While President George W. Bush's White House notes that the portion of the act that increases the tools available to law enforcement officers is necessary because of its ability to protect American citizens from "dangerous enemies," the subject of wiretapping has been one of the more controversial tools handed to law enforcement officers. Through a discussion of the purpose of wiretapping, a brief history of its use in the United States, and an exploration of the arguments for and against the extended use of wiretapping in order to improve law enforcement's understanding of the terrorist situation in the country, one can understand the post-9/11 expansion of government through wiretapping.

II. Purpose of Wiretapping simple technological innovation, wiretapping's primary purpose is aiding the government in self-defense by helping to detect and destroy terrorist cells and plots.

Wiretapping occurs when one party is able listens or eavesdrops on the telephone conversations of another. A rather simple type of espionage, wiretapping is simply attaching a "listening device" to the circuit that passes information between telephones. Even the most amateur spy can become a pro-at wiretapping in just a few hours (Harris). In this digital age, wiretapping has also been used to describe computer tracking and cell phone tracking. But for such a simple piece of technology has managed to fulfill a mighty purpose, according to the White House. In the days, weeks, and months after September 11, 2001, details began to emerge that described the planning of the event and the hijackers' lives in the United States before the plan was carried out. In both Germany and the United States, the hijackers were monitored by the national security administration, including wiretap monitoring ("Complete 9/11 Timeline"). The 9/11 hijackers, however, were allowed to continue their business as usual in the United States, as the government failed to note the immediacy of the threat they posed to the country.

Although wiretapping failed to prevent the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the situation makes for a good example of the purpose of wiretapping -- discovering those with al-Qaida ties. Wiretapping allowed national security officials to recognize the connection between the terrorist organization and the men, succeeding in its primary purpose. In fact, according to official White House statements explaining the importance of the Patriot Act, which allows for more extensive wiretapping, the process helps to break up terror cells in the United States and to "disrupt terrorist plots." Thus, President George W. Bush's recognition of wiretapping and its ability to aid the federal government with terrorist cell location and disruption has resulted in his definition of the advance as a "necessary program" (Smith).

III. A Brief History of Wiretapping in the United States

Often depicted in spy, police, and mobster movies, wiretapping is one of the oldest espionage technologies used in the United States. President Bush's decision to implement the Patriot Act, in addition to his more controversial decision to begin wiretapping without a court order, however, have expanded the role of the government despite the length of time with which wiretapping has been used by government officials. As early as the 1860s, citizens concerns that their telegraph messages would get intercepted resulted in the first batch of legislation concerned with wiretapping, which made it illegal for one party to listen to intercept the conversations of another. When the telephone was invented, wiretapping became even more prevalent. In fact, even on the maiden voyage of the telephone -- during the 1890s -- wiretapping became a large enough problem to require legal action. Thus, courts quickly made it illegal for one person to listen to another's phone conversation or for phone conversations to be recorded when only one party is aware of that fact (Harris).

While the laws regarding private wiretapping have remained similar since the 1800s with some expansion relating to other forms of digital communication -- Internet communication, texting, instant messaging -- law enforcement's use of wiretapping has been allowed special scrutiny. In 1928, the United States Supreme Court gave government and law enforcement officials the right to wiretap, but about thirty years later these privileges were sustained only with a court order. Court orders are generally very specific, allowing law enforcement officers to listen to a particular call for a particular amount of time. Thus, even pre-9/11 law enforcement rarely had the opportunity to listen to another's calls with impunity, although the United States also has a long history of rather covert surveillance, occurring during wars and domestic conflict (Harris, Smith).

After the September 11th terrorist attacks, however, President George W. Bush's Patriot Act significantly expanded the government's authority concerning wiretapping. While they are, indeed, expansions, most of the act's provisions about wiretapping simply give law enforcement a legal upgrade. For example, the act gives law enforcement officials the ability to gain computerized information that records sites visited on the Internet, much like law enforcement can print out a list of all the numbers called on a certain phone if it is relevant to a criminal investigation. The act also allows domestic and foreign intelligence agencies to share communication information, in an attempt to prevent a reoccurance of events like September 11th, which involved foreign operatives living in the United States. Similarly, the law removes… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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