NSA and DHS Surveillance Programs Essay

NSA and DHS Surveillance Programs Essay

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Ever since the invention of the telephone and telegraph, the concept of wiretapping has been a concern. As early as the 1860’s, statutes were in place in some states prohibiting listening in on telegraph communication. As the turn of the century neared, along came the telephone, and with it, came wiretapping. From the onset, it has been illegal in the United States for an unauthorized person to listen in on a private phone conversation. It is even illegal to record your own phone conversation if the person on the other end does not know it is being recorded (Harris, 2001).
According to Harris, historically, the law has not been as strict for the government. He states, “in 1928, the United States Supreme Court approved the practice of wiretapping for the police and other government officials, though some states have banned it.” By the 1970’s, this practice was met with some provisions. Now law enforcement is required to obtain a court order to listen in on private conversations, and the information obtained can be used in court only in certain circumstances. In addition, there are limitations with the court order. Authorities are only permitted to listen in on a call for a certain length of time. Regardless of these parameters, the practice of government wiretapping is highly controversial (2001).
With the advancements in technology and explosive growth in internet communication, many new concerns have arisen. Internet communication, which is comprised of bits and bytes, can be “viewed” using something called packet sniffers, such as the FBI's Carnivore system. Internet communication, as it was not “verbal” conversation, had not been protected by the same laws that protect traditional phone use. However, by 1986, the U....


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...d Hicks, Josh. “Homeland Security is seeking a national license plate tracking system” 18 February 2014. The Washington Post. 18 February 2014.

Rouse, Margaret. “Definition of Patriot Act” April 2010. Whatis.com. April 2010.

Stone, Adam. “Video Helped Capture the Boston Bombing Suspects, But is it Preventive?” 08 July 2013. 08 July 2013.

Wilkerson, Lori. “The History of Video Surveillance – From VCR’s to Eyes in the Sky.” 23 March 2005. September 2008.



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