The NSA and Our Rights

Is the Fourth Amendment dead? The National Security Agency, N.S.A, is constantly monitoring what we read, watch, and post on the Internet. This is possible through a process called upstream collection. The process works by telecommunication companies, such as AT&T and Verizon, first implementing data search devices to their internet services that tag certain key words and phrases for the NSA to search through. The N.S.A will then sort through this data with certain search words to search content. The search of data and communications is never approved by a judge or court. The N.S.A simply decides what to review and what not to review. The N.S.A also automatically targets any foreigner outside of the country who they believe transfers foreign intelligence. This is a large and very subjective pool of individuals.

This process is in direct violation of our Fourth Amendment which protects “unreasonable search and seizures.” We as American’s should feel safe to exchange information between one another without feeling as though we are being monitored without due process. Many individuals may feel less comfortable reporting on or discussing controversial information because of fear of being marked as a suspected terrorist or criminal.

In their article, “Stop Spying on Wikipedia Users,” Wales and Tretikov argue that the upstream collection process violates not only the Fourth Amendment but also the First Amendment because it violates the protection of “freedoms of expression and association.” The authors also argue that potential Wikipedia contributors in other countries may avoid creating controversial articles because of fear of being monitored and targeted. This is very unfortunate because many of these would be contributors are in countries where the controversial activities are taking place and could speak very personally to what is going on and the impact it has on the country.

Our country is built on freedom of expression. It is our First Amendment and arguably one of the most important aspects of the American way of life. Citizens need to feel free to express their beliefs and speak freely with others. Free speech is how ideas and policies evolve and how true change is made. Without freedom of speech, many of the ideals that we live by are meaningless.

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