Domestic surveillance has been a highly contentious topic in the United States in recent years. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2011, government officials believe that preventing another attack on that scale should take precedence over privacy concerns. On the other hand, some believe that the importance of personal liberty is the foundation of the United States. Inevitably, these two viewpoints will come into conflict.
Shortly after 9/11, President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act into law. The goal of the Patriot Act was to curtail potential security threats. To do so, they expanded the parameters of the National Security Letters, which gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation permission to search telephone, e-mail and financial records of United States citizens without first being granted a court order. The extent to which the FBI is able to do so was brought to light by Edward Snowden, when he leaked classified NSA documents that detailed global and domestic surveillance operations being conducted by the United States. Since its enactment, there have been several challenges to the Patriot Act’s legality, and federal courts have deemed certain segments unconstitutional.
This collection of scholarly articles will provide an entrance point into the current debates surrounding the advantages and disadvantages of domestic surveillance. They will provide a background on domestic surveillance in the United States, explanations about the effect of the Patriot Act and the Snowden scandal, and cases that have been brought to court contesting the legality of the NSA's activities. These essays will give students a solid foundation to craft arguments in favor and against the continued employment of domestic surveillance in the United States. The articles featured in this collection have primarily been drawn from the back issues of the World & I eLibrary.