Domestic Terrorism in the United States
Assignment instructions HEM352
- Required (PDF files attached)
- Module Notes: Legal Issues Surrounding Counterterrorism and Intelligence Gathering in America
- Deflem, M., & McDonough, S. (2015). The Fear of Counterterrorism: Surveillance and Civil Liberties Since 9/11. Society, 52(1), 70–79.
- Domestic Surveillance Overview. (2015). Congressional Digest, 94(10), 2–32.
- FBI. (2015). Going dark: Encryption, technology, and the balances between public safety and privacy. https://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/going-dark-encryption-technology-and-the-balances-between-public-safety-and-privacy
- The Freedom House. (2007).The civil liberties implications of counterterrorism policies: full chapter. https://www.refworld.org/docid/491013161d.html
- Libicki, M.C., & Howell, D.R. (2009). Privacy and civil liberties protections in a new domestic intelligence agency. In Schaefer, A & Jackson, B. (Eds.). The Challenge Of Domestic Intelligence In A Free Society: A Multidisciplinary Look at the Creation of a U.S. Domestic Counterterrorism Intelligence Agency [e-book] (pp.149–177).
- Peralta, E. (2015). U.S. appeals court overturns decision that NSA metadata collection was illegal. http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/28/435506021/u-s-appeals-court-overturns-decision-that-nsa-metadata-collection-was-illegal
- Pena, N. (Producer). Unconstitutional: The war on our civil liberties. [Video File, 05:06 mins].
Many civil liberties organizations claim that the USA PATRIOT Act has unnecessarily broadened the government’s power and is overstepping Americans’ constitutional rights, particularly in individuals’ Fourth Amendment privacy rights. Opponents of the Act also claim that the increased surveillance provisions violate individual rights without significantly reducing the threat of terrorism in America.
Arresting and prosecuting these sorts of activities under the guise of “terrorism” affords the government many investigative and prosecutorial advantages, while it also stifles political dissent to protect private economic gain at the expense of the environment.
Upon completion of this activity, you will be able to:
- Explain the issue of balancing national security and Americans civil liberties
- Discuss how the USA PATRIOT Act has broadened the government’s intelligence-gathering powers
- Examine the issues regarding the use of The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) by government agents.
After reviewing the assignments, Module Notes, and video in the Required Reading page, you will have a better understanding of the many issues related to individual and corporate privacy in relation to the state's security interests. Please respond to the following:
Choose a particular title or section within the USA PATRIOT Act that you think is most controversial. Discuss the issue as you see it and explain your viewpoint within the context of balancing national security and the privacy rights of individuals.
- Which way do you fall, or lean, on this balance?
- Now consider and explain “going dark” considering the PATRIOT Act and the impact of technology on the ability (regardless of legality) to gather intelligence.
- In your view, should the private sector and individuals have this capability relative to the state’s lawful security concerns?
Domestic Terrorism in the United States
My Position on the Balance Issue
I stand for protecting the American people’s rights, privacy, and liberties. While I admit that terrorism is a critical national security issue in the United States, I feel that the move by the government through the 1978-FISA legislation under the USA-PATRIOT Act provides a platform (avenue) for the government to exercise powers beyond its mandate. Indeed, Americans are entitled to their right to privacy, and the provisions are outlined in the American constitution (Congressional-Digest, 2015). As such, the action to implement the 1978-FISA through increased surveillance of the American people from within the foreign and domestic sphere resulted in a violation of their freedom and liberties. Therefore, my position is that as the American government, through the federal agencies, intensifies its strategies on counterterrorism, it is crucial for the constitutional rights and privileges granted to the American people to be protected in all measures.
Further, I strongly feel that the appropriateness of provisions highlighted in the USA-PATRIOT Act should be evaluated from the constitutionality of expanding the government’s power concerning monitoring and surveillance of domestic terrorism activities. In my support of protecting the privacy rights of the American citizenry, I concur with the views propagated by the civil-liberties organizations in advancing the agenda on the unjustifiable violation of the rights stipulated in the Fourth Amendment of the American Constitution (Module-Notes, 2022). One of the significant issues raised by the civil-liberties organization’s premises is the effectiveness of the surveillance activities undertaken by the government agencies to prevent terrorism.
As such, I consider that the anti-terrorism procedures implemented by the government have little contribution to the limitation of the threat of terrorism while increasing their adverse impact on the rights and privileges of Americans (Congressional-Digest, 2015). Therefore, I support the protection of the personal liberties and rights of Americans (privacy) while opposing the government’s action on surveillance and counterterrorism strategies.
The concept of “going dark” refers to the scenario whereby the law-enforcement agencies encounter challenges in collecting and gathering personal information- in electronic form- from the public members due to the encryption element that characterizes the security features of the communication medium. The concept was presented by a senior director from the FBI in 2015 in an appearance at a Senate proceeding on judicial matters. The going-dark is a hindrance to the administration of the mandate issued to the security organs and agencies in the United States (Peralta, 2015). Considering the provisions outlined in the PATRIOT Act, the federal government and its relevant agencies are granted the power to meddle in an individual’s personal and private affairs to enhance national security concerns.
The main contention lies in the obstacle presented by the going-dark. The American people enjoy some degree of protection from external interference in their privacy through the encryption capabilities on the communication medium. Therefore, the going-dark concept limits the enforceability of the PATRIOT-Act within the United States on the foundation that the security agencies involved in counterterrorism activities cannot compel the communication to share access to the electronic communication transmitted through their platforms (Module-Notes, 2022). As such, the PATRIOT Act empowers the federal agencies to undertake surveillance while violating the citizens’ privacy rights; in essence, the legality concerns are disregarded in the implementation and enforcement of the PATRIOT Act (MCDonough & Deflem, 2015). Thus, going dark relieves the American people since it limits the adverse actions of violating the personal freedoms, privacy, and constitutional liberties enshrined in the American constitution.
I vehemently support the view that the private sector and individuals should be able to encrypt electronic information despite the government’s (state’s) legal-based security issues and concerns. In my humble option, I feel that the rights and liberties of the American people are well-captured in the Fourth Amendment and that their privacy concerns should be highly prioritized by the state (Congressional-Digest, 2015). However, the legislative actions by the state through the PATRIOT-Act and the 1978-FISA have empowered the state organs to a great extent whereby they lack the consideration of other provisions of the constitutions touching on personal liberties (Module-Notes, 2022). On the contrary, the state agencies invest their energies in surveillance of the personal affairs of the American people in the disguise of security checks and monitoring of counterterrorism intentions among the public.
Indeed, I feel that the innovative technologies used by the communication companies for the benefit of protecting their client’s electronic records and information have proper and correct motives that help to protect the rights (freedoms) and privileges spelled out in the legislation; Fourth Amendment (Congressional-Digest, 2015). Therefore, while the government must ensure that the American people are protected from the dangers of terrorism, there is a need for the state to undertake significant measures to promote the advancement of constitutional liberties on personal freedom and liberties. Therefore, the actions of the American people and the private sector regarding the encryption of electronic information are worth embracing.
Congressional-Digest. (2015, Dec). Domestic Surveillance Overview: the expansion of government intelligence gathering services. Congressional Digest.Com.
Howell, D, & Libicki, M. (2009). Privacy and Civil Liberties Protections in a New Domestic Intelligence Agency. Chapter 7.
Lecture/ Module-Notes. (2022). The PATRIOT Act.
MCDonough, S, & Deflem, M. (2015). The Fear of Counterterrorism: Surveillance and Civil Liberties since 9/11. Global Society.
Peralta, E. (2015, Aug.).US Appeals Court Overturns Decision that NSA Metadata Collection was Illegal. Twitter. Com.
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