Counter-Terrorism and Social Media: Freedom vs. Security
The United States prides itself to being the most democratic nation of the world, with the highest respect for the human being, for its values, norms, and dreams. At the same time, before 9/11, it was also considered to be one of the safest nations of the world. The attacks on the World Trade Center towers, in particular pointed out that there are gaps in security and that even the United States represent a vulnerable target. Since then, the security measures have been seriously increased, in certain areas of expertise; security rules have been created if they did not exist. All these measures fueled a constant debate on whether the security that has been increased affects or not the liberties and freedoms of the American population.
On May 1st 2011, Osama bin Laden has been announced dead by the U.S. President, Barack Obama
. Apparently, all the security measures have been useful as they prevented any new attack on the American soil. Even more, the strive to fight terrorism and its complex structure is being proven at the moment. However, there are still questions on the limit the state can interfere in the private and social life of the individuals.
The present paper assesses the way in which the Fourth Amendment and FISA (the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) should be interpreted when considering the bounds of electronic surveillance of social media sites; there should be a reasonable expectation of privacy on these platforms; the introduction of public communication mediums (social media platforms) creates a new category of electronic communication and should be interpreted differently by FISA based on its nature as a public rather than a private medium.
The structure of the research follows three parts. The first part represents a background of the fight against terrorism with clear distinction on the measures undertaken by the U.S. administration to protect its citizens on the one hand and to fight terrorism on the other hand. These include different legislative packages that aim to monitor the activities on citizens in all environments. As seen in recent events in the Middle East, the socializing networks play a major role in the social dynamics of the community. Therefore, it was only natural that some clear targets for some legislative action were the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter or MySpace.
The second part of the research focuses on specific legal cases involving the Forth Amendment and its implications for social privacy and civil rights as well as the FISA. This is important because the United States Constitution clearly protects the right of the individual to privacy, to property, and fair trial.
The third part follows on the conclusions, with due regard for the background and the specific cases presented.
Part one: Background
Terrorism has been a serious security threat for more than a century now. Despite the fact that terrorist actions are known to have occurred since the early days of the Greek and Roman republics, to this day there is no generally accepted definition of the notion. There are certain general definitions such as the one provided by the United Nations that considers terrorism to be the "peacetime equivalent of a war crime"
whose content does not point out the entire complexity of the phenomenon.
The United States has defined the act of terrorism under the Patriot Act of 2001. Thus, it is considered a terrorist action the "activities that involve violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State, or that would be a criminal violation if committed within the jurisdiction of the United States or of any State or appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping" (The Patriot Act, 2001). In this context, the issue of terrorism became a center stage subject and measures to limit and eliminate the effects of terrorist actions have been set in place.
Taking into account the situation created by the 9/11 events, the Counter Terrorism Fund was created, through the Patriot Act as well, a source of financial and institutional support for the counter measures the U.S. would eventually take in order to deter further terrorist attacks. In this sense, such actions included increased surveillance of suspected terrorist individuals, the interception of online, telephone or video communication (The Patriot Act, 2001). Despite the fact that such measures were debated at length, the act was approved and implemented.
The necessity to understand the motivations and techniques of the terrorist forces is essential because it offers the possibility of counter terrorist agencies to have a better view on their enemy. Traditional threats are most of the time known to their adversaries and their defeat is easier. However, in the case of terrorism, which cannot be identified without a doubt with a particular face or region of the world, the fight against terrorist organizations is more difficult and subject to failure.
The possible motives for terrorists around the world and in America are multiple. In the first situation, these include religion beliefs, political extremism, and even international influence. The terrorist phenomenon is influenced by the globalization of relations; thus, it may be that certain terrorist groups from Asia can be influenced by the religious motivated Middle East terrorists; without any ideological or religious connection, they come to endorse each other's terrorists' acts; this in turn creates a chain reaction which determines the large range of activity of terrorism.
The discussion over the issue of counterterrorism being a tactic of warfare or crime fighting is a rather sensible issue. This is largely due to the fact that there are at least two perspectives for the issue at hand.
In the first situation, for the terrorist supporters and for the ones actually engaged in the practice of political violence, counter terrorist measure are indeed considered to be actions related to warfare. The initiatives taken as a result of the implementation of the Patriot Act are seen as even against the privacy of the American individuals. Therefore, from this point-of-view, it would be fair to say that surveillance methods used by the U.S. Or even the preemptive attacks over Iraq can be seen as a sign of warfare; such a state of war must not necessarily imply armed conflict but even mere clashes through speeches, national addresses, or even through propagandistic actions.
On the other hand, there is the perspective the states imposing this type of legislation, similar to the one established in America. In this sense, the surveillance practices, the limited access in the country and only after comprehensive search has been motivated by the fact that the Patriot Act would eventually decrease the terrorist threat and limit the area of their activity.
Yet another point-of-view to this situation is the one underlining the fact that counterterrorism can be considered a means of warfare, from the perspective of the preemptive strikes doctrine
. In this respect, actions must be taken even if there is only a suspicion of something would threaten the security of the state. In these conditions, preemptive strikes are essential for the usefulness of the doctrine because they offer the possibility of actually preventing a terrorist act. This can be said to have been the case with the war in Iraq, whose territory was invaded under the suspicion of WMD that represented a possible threat to the address of the U.S. The preemptive strikes tried to reduce and eliminate this threat.
Crime fighting on the other hand implies a different labeling of the participants. In this case, the individuals engaged in criminal activities or terrorist ones are considered to be mere criminals and are therefore treated as common criminals according to the already established criminal code. By contrast, should terrorists be accused of being involved in terrorist acts, they are subject to much tougher and restrictive rules than the regular thief. From this perspective, the distinction appears to be essential.
The fight against terrorism and the global security issues of the 21st century demanded a new type of organization at the level of the information services, as well as the improvement and adaptation of information gathering and analyzing techniques. After the Commission examining the 9/11 events reached the conclusion that underlined the fact that the events were also part of a failure of information, the reform of the information system was deemed necessary.
The Patriot Act has approved through its content a series of new surveillance techniques that have raised the question of privacy in the United States. More precisely, the government is allowed and entitled to support different information gathering activities, although in many instances the right to privacy is often disregarded.
The interceptions of telephone conversations, of personal mail, electronic mail, even the basic e-mails sent and received throughout America are considered to be…