Warrantless Wiretapping and Justice



You probably never even imagined that someone else may be listening in to your conversations just like in the movies you have probably seen. Nonetheless, that may be the case in the United States, and the judicial branch of the U.S. seems to be ignorant towards the issue. Recently in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that Chris Hedge, a journalist, and Amnesty International, who started the lawsuit against the warrantless wiretapping, had no legal basis to challenge the warrantless wiretapping. i Plaintiffs insisted that the U.S. government once stated it is was impossible to figure out exactly how many Americans were having their communication tapped and expressed their concern that the ruling will challenge any further lawsuits. ii “This is a very depressing decision, but one that has become routine in a court system that when faced with what the government insists are matters of national security writes lengthy opinions about why the courts cannot defend the rule of law,” Chris Hedge wrote on his e-mail. iii

Wiretapping has been mostly carried out by the National Security Agency, which has been intercepting telephone, microwave, and other electronic communications under the pretext of national security. iv Nevertheless, these missions degenerated into the tools for spying on political opponents of the ruling cliques, especially during the Vietnam War. v In order to avert such abuses, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) was passed in 1978, which required the government to have a warrant issued by court to use any kinds of electronic surveillance on a U.S. citizen. vi However, in 2005, it was revealed that the NSA had been conducting wiretapping on the U.S. since the 9/11 attacks in 2001.vii Critics asserted that the wiretapping was ineffective, as most of the wiretapped people had never been involved in any criminal activity; furthermore, they denounced that the Bush administration ultimately had been spying on U.S. citizens illegally and intruded with the privacy of people. viii

Many groups besides Amnesty International have been filing lawsuits regarding the warrantless wiretapping since the disclosure of the secretive wiretapping program in 2005. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) won its first lawsuit when the U.S. District Court judge ruled that the warrantless wiretapping is unconstitutional. ix In spite of this, in July 2007, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that plaintiffs had no legal ground for lawsuits against warrantless wiretapping. x ACLU legal director Steve Shapiro said the decision “insulates the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance activities from judicial review and deprives Americans of any ability to challenge the illegal surveillance of their telephone calls and e-mails”. xi ACLU appealed to the Supreme Court, but the case was eventually declined in 2008. xii The Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that there shall be no arbitrary interference with one’s privacy, and this is clearly stated in the constitutions of the U.S. Despite this, it is very acrid to see how this basic human right is being abused and the judicature’s apathetic attitude towards the issue.


[i] Matt Sledge, “Clapper v. Amnesty International, Warrantless Wiretapping Challenge, Struck Down by Supreme Court,” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/, last modified February 26, 2013, accessed November 10, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/26/clapper-v-amnesty-international-warrantless-wiretapping-supreme-court_n_2765931.html.

ii Ibid

iii Ibid

iv BRIA 22 3 C The National Security Agency Warrantless Wiretaps,”http://www.crf-usa.org/, accessed November 9, 2015, http://www.crf-usa.org/bill-of-rights-in-action/bria-22-3-c-the-national-security-agency-warrantless-wiretaps.

vi Ibid

vii Ibid

viii Ibid

ix  “ACLU V. NSA – Challenge to Warrantless Wiretapping,” www.aclu.org, last modified September 14, 2014, accessed November 10, 2015, https://www.aclu.org/cases/aclu-v-nsa-challenge-warrantless-wiretapping.

x Ibid

xi Ibid

xii Ibid