To defend its citizens from harm, must the government have unfettered access to all information? Or, must personal privacy be defended at all costs from the encroachment of a surveillance state? And, doesn’t the Constitution already protect us from such intrusions? When the topic of discussion is intelligence-gathering, privacy, or Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the result is usually more heat than light.
Anthony Gregory challenges such simplifications, offering a nuanced history and analysis of these difficult issues. He highlights the complexity of the relationship between the gathering of intelligence for national security and countervailing efforts to safeguard individual privacy. The Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures offers no panacea, he finds, in combating assaults on privacy—whether by the NSA, the FBI, local police, or more mundane administrative agencies. Given the growth of technology, together with the ambiguities and practical problems of enforcing the Fourth Amendment, advocates for privacy protections need to work on multiple policy fronts.
“This fascinating review of the shifts and accretions of American law and culture is filled with historical surprises and twenty-first-century shocks, so beneficial in an era of gross American ahistoricality and cultural acquiescence to the technological state. Every flag-waving patriot, every dissenter, every judge and police officer, every small-town mayor and every president should read America Surveillance. We have work to do!”—Lt. Col. Karen U. Kwiatkowski, (Ret.), former Senior Operations Staff Officer, Office of the Director, National Security Agency