Government Surveillance in the U.S.

Research Question: What is the reason for government surveillance in the United States, and how is it helpful/hurtful?

So What: I believe that this research is important to the extremely large audience of United States citizens. The ability and actions of the U.S. Government through surveillance should be a concern to every person. Although not everyone is being constantly monitored, it is possible in ways we can not imagine to have our privacy rights violated. With the constant use of the internet and mobile phones in today's society, it is only easier for us to be tracked, viewed, and heard by government agencies, even if we are innocent of committing a crime. There are also positives to government surveillance, and I believe they deserve and equal amount of attention in this research. The government's role in preventing terroristic and violent threats in the United States is one that I believe is of extreme value. The government's ability to surveille on a large scale allows them to be a highly effective task force. The safety and preservation of the people and community of the United States as a whole may be the most important reason for surveillance done by the government here in American and elsewhere.

Primary Materials: I am researching the topic of Government Surveillance within the United States. For my primary materials, I am using America's perception of surveillance by the government as well as legal and illegal sides of the topic. Legally, the government has acts such as the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which was first passed in the 1970's, yet it has been updated to fall within current government themes of current issues. This act allows the government to perform surveillance on United States citizens without the consent of the citizens. Illegally, the government is practicing techniques of surveillance that are not constitutional. For example, under the FISA, the supreme court is not allowed to review the acts of surveillance done by the government as this would be a breach of national security. This lack of checks and balances undermines the basic American political foundation that a system of checks and balances is necessary to an honest Democratic government. All government surveillance can not be viewed as negative, however. They protect the inner workings of the United States by providing safety, security, and general peace of mind through their surveillance. While we know that government surveillance is obvious in places like banks, schools, airports, and other government-run organizations, there are many primary materials that must go unnamed due to the secrecy placed upon them. Just recently the news reported on drones bombing towns in the Middle East. While the bombings did not take place here in the United States, the news acted as a primary material for the surveillance technology that the government currently has. The news is an active entity in the quest for knowledge of surveillance done by the government, however one source should never be fully relied upon, as some carry political or emotional bias.

Primary Materials Analysis: In the last few years, use of surveillance through video cameras has increased dramatically. According to this article, in 1986 the Electronic Communications Privacy Act was passed. This act states that at any workplace can not place surveillance cameras, hidden or otherwise, in any place where a normal person finds it unreasonable. In many states, including California, a person can not be video recorded in less all parties involved are aware of the recording and give their consent. After a trusted neighbor placed video cameras in a fellow neighbor's home and captured extremely private moments, Congress passed a federal law stating that video taping a person with lewd intent without their knowledge and consent is a federal offense. Under the fourth amendment, it is unconstitutional for the US government to exercise video surveillance on any person without authorization from a federal judge. The agency wishing to do surveillance must also provide strong evidence that the surveillance will bring about an arrest leading to federal charges. Although this is true, this does not stop the United States government from surveilling citizens. Under the Patriot Act, government agencies can survey any person at any time for any reason.

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