FBI violates constitution in its surveillance tactics

Noah Loewy, Staff Writer

As you scroll through students scroll through Instagram or Twitter, you’re likely to find memes that poke fun at government surveillance.  In every meme, however, there is a grain of truth. Congress has been quietly working on controversial legislation that would expand the ability for the FBI to wiretap and spy on innocent citizens.  The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017 will likely be voted on by the House this month and would provide loopholes for the FBI and NSA to practice warrantless searches of electronic devices.
The bill permits intelligence agencies to search communications that simply mention a potential threat, such as “Osama Bin Laden or “Dylan Roof.” If passed, this could grant the FBI the right to search your phone’s data in its entirety simply because a message might contain an email address, phone number, or string of characters associated with a specific target.  In addition, would provide the necessary legal means for the government to search overseas communications. According to the ACLU, the Reauthorization Act would make allow any government-collected data to be admissible in court.  Although some justify this bill as a crucial measure needed to ensure America’s safety, this outright invasion of privacy crosses the line and is an imminent threat to our constitutional liberties.

“The ability to freely communicate without government intervention has always been essential to the liberty granted by the Constitution,” said freshman Isaac Goldstein.
The Fourth Amendment requires governmental searches and seizures to be conducted upon issuance of a warrant, which must be judicially sanctioned by probable cause and supported by oath or affirmation.  Given that the FBI has neither warrant nor probable cause and lacks evidence proving that a crime has been committed, searches of this nature would be deemed unconstitutional.
“Just get a warrant,” said senior Julia Ruskin.  “It’s not even a difficult thing to do.”
The clause about using key phrases relating to potential threats as justification for a warrantless search is particularly concerning and a clear violation of our liberties.  When the nation’s founders implemented the concept of probable cause, it was not intended as a loophole for the government to look through our possessions.  How is texting a particular word or set of characters comparable to the evidence and affidavits that must be presented for the police to search a house?  This by no means justifies a search, and some parts of the bill, such as the overseas clause, would allow warrantless searches with practically no logical basis at all.
“It is most certainly an invasion of privacy for the FBI to search through our phones and computers freely.  They need a warrant to search someone’s home, so they should need a warrant to search someone’s cell phone,” said junior Nick Scardigno.
Technological advances are inevitable, but these developments should not allow our rights to be infringed on.  While it is important to update laws to keep up with the times, it is critical that we maintain the fundamental principles that America was founded on, principles designed to protect us from tyranny.
“I think the FBI shouldn’t be able to access phone information without informing the citizens because that violates the rights laid out by the Fourth Amendment.  However, I do believe they should be able to get the necessary information to keep us safe, but they should need to obtain a warrant,” said freshman Hope Lane.
The Fourth Amendment is a cornerstone of America’s history which helps make America the incredible country that it is today.  A warrant, while not hard to obtain, plays a significant role in maintaining privacy and security.  It is necessary to strike a balance between these two values if America is to remain “the land of the free.”