Philosophy 203 – Introduction to Ethics
August 7, 2015
ETHICS OF WIRETAPPING
Since the First World War, government has been known to use private companies to wiretap phone lines for information. The legal structures, established by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), have defined a framework for legally securing a warrant for searches and tapping into phone lines of the American populace. Sometimes the government uses warrantless wiretapping without proper authorization and it exposes telecommunications companies to legal and financial ramifications. What I will argue in this paper is that warrantless wiretapping is ...view middle of the document...
 No defense for these companies could be found in any major legislation—including FISA, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, or the PATRIOT Act. Warrantless wiretapping, although preferred by the security agencies in the federal government, put communications companies at fault for illegal domestic spying, and unauthorized disclosures of domestic phone records.
The litigation against telecommunications companies who complied with NSA requests to wiretap without warrants has cost compliant companies millions of dollars in legal fees. The NSA and other government security agencies cannot provide immunity for the actions that they compelled telecommunications companies to perform and therefore should cease in their requests for illegal wiretaps. Warrantless wiretapping leaves these companies exposed and vulnerable to lawsuits and legal problems.
The fallout from little to no oversight on the executive can lead to dire consequences. In the 1970s, the Nixon administration engaged in wiretapping that would ally play a role in Nixon’s resignation. President Nixon abused the powers of the executive office, and with no check from the judiciary, ordered warrantless wiretaps on New York Times reporter Daniel Ellsberg and White House aid Morton Halperin, both without approval from the attorney general. These ordered wiretaps were done purely for political reasons and exemplify the spiraling abuse of not requiring warrants for wiretapping. The removal of the judiciary from the warrant-securing process enables this kind of illegal spying to continue, and for government officials and politicians to corruptly use the power of their offices to abuse the Constitution and established law of the United States.
The unchecked power of the NSA to prompt telecommunication companies to spy without the issuance of a warrant violates the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, which reads: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Only with a warrant present is any search of a person’s effects and communication permissible in the United States of America”.
AT&T stored all of its Internet and phone data, readily available and on multiple occasions, used by the NSA, demonstrates easy accessibility of American communication. -Critics of clamping down on warrantless wiretapping of Americans regularly invoke...