Surveillance and the Patriot Act
Title II of the Patriot Act
The major role played by Title II of the Patriot Act is broadening the authorities of the surveillance agencies that were restricted greatly by the Fourth Amendment. These authorities mostly relate to the surveillance of Americans who are believed to be involved in domestic terrorism. Title II allows the seizure of voice mail messages, inclusive of the unopened ones with the use of a warrant in sec. 209. This is different from the way it was previously, whereby the authorities had to provide a wiretap order. Title II further broadens the scope of records of electronic communications of a suspected terrorist, which can be obtained using subpoenas. Law enforcement may obtain means and sources of payment, any bank accounts of interest, and credit card numbers using a subpoena. The form of payment is critical in the verification of the true identity of the surveilled person. One of the restrictions provided by Title II of the Patriot Act is that cable companies, when making disclosures, are not allowed to reveal the customer’s viewing activity.
Signal Intelligence (SIGINT)
Signal intelligence refers to the interception of communications for attaining foreign intelligence and counterintelligence. SIGINT does not target American citizens, and is done to further the interests of the United States internationally in terms of geopolitics, security, and commerce (The White House, 2014). The United States spends a lot of resources in fighting global terrorism. The nation has to help other countries in the Middle East as well as north and eastern Africa to fight terrorist elements in within their borders to prevent possible attacks on its soil. In light of that, the U.S does spend enough in the struggle against terrorism. The intelligence Community in the U.S is allowed to conduct signal intelligence surveillance on persons of interest who are not American citizens. The only agency that is not allowed to carry out this surveillance is the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) whose operations are limited within American soil (The White House, 2014). The information collected is to be treated with utmost confidence and the privacy of the targets respected just as is the case with the American citizens. The data that affects the interests of the U.S is acted upon while the rest is purged or stored for future reference.
Targeted Killings Using Drones
Some of SIGINT’s successes include the targeted elimination of the major terrorists in the Middle East using armed drones. SIGINT is used to track their communications and movements, getting their exact location in the process. The information is then used to guide the drones in targeting them with precision. SIGINT has been successful in the prevention of attacks in America and on American interests internationally. The targeted killings of the leadership of Al Qaeda has weakened the terror group significantly (Miller, 2012). However, activist groups have criticized the practice of surveillance insisting that it is an intrusion into the privacy of individuals. They have further condemned the targeted killings of terrorist groups’ leaders claiming that they should be afforded legal redress instead of killing them directly (DeYoung, 2012). SIGINT has to be carried out in a manner that spells good faith to the foreign nations whose nationals are persons of interest. It should also be conducted in a manner that does not undermine the trust that other nations have on the U.S.
DeYoung, K. (2012). CIA veteran John Brennan has transformed U.S. counterterrorism policy. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-veteran-john-brennan-has-transformed-us-counterterrorism-policy/2012/10/24/
Miller, G. (2012). Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/plan-for-hunting-terrorists-signals-us-intends-to-keep-adding-names-to-kill-lists/2012/10/23/
The White House. (2014). Presidential Policy Directive — Signals Intelligence Activities[Ebook]. Office of the Press Secretary.