Does the government record your telephone calls?

In this piece from last week on CNN, a former FBI counterintelligence officer suggests that all of your telephone calls are recorded… or at least that they could be accessed at a later date by the government if it were investigating you.  Does this concern you, from the perspective of civil liberties and privacy?  Does this violate individuals’ 4th amendment “right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizure”?  Or should the government be able to access any conversation you have — on the telephone or online — in conjunction with a terrorism investigation?

17 responses to “Does the government record your telephone calls?”

  1. sarahb7 says :

    I agree with the FBI’s course of action in this case. Given the nature of the terrorist crime committed by Tsarnaev, I fully support the government going back into old digital records in order to pursue terrorists. The federal government doesn’t look through people’s phone calls without cause; the FBI has every reason to investigate the last call made between Tsarnaev and his wife. Personally, I’m willing to sacrifice the civil liberty of total digital privacy if it enables the federal government to act with greater force against terrorism.

  2. Kunaal7 says :

    As per USA today’s report, The National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting the phone call records of Americans, using data provided by the telephone companies. NSA can eavesdrop, without warrants on telephonic calls and e-mails when one member in that communication is in U.S.A. With current tyrannical political culture, government is doing erosions of civil liberties in the name of terrorism. It is sad how we have accepted to this type of surveillance. If they (government) put the same level of vigilance for guns instead of talking about second amendment then world would all be a lot safer.

  3. jack7 says :

    I don’t see anything wrong with the FBI using whatever “assets” they have to look into past phone calls. If this allows them to further the Boston bombing investigation, then so be it. This is a worthwhile matter. I’m sure many people are concerned about the implication that the government has been recording our every digital movement. It is a bit scary, and certainly impressive. The way I see it, Americans have nothing to worry about with regard to their lack of digital privacy. It is in our best interests and the best interests of the entire counter-terrorism operation for the government to have this information. the only people who have anything to worry about are people who have done something illegal, and even so this could act as a crime deterrent. It really is no different from the public surveillance cameras popping up in major cities. As for whether or not it violates the 4th amendment, I don’t think it does. I doubt that there are people combing through my phone calls, because I’m not a person of interest. There is no search or seizure happening there. There is the ability to do so, but that would only be done if the government had a reason to care, a.k.a probable cause (and maybe even a warrant).

  4. Ryan4 says :

    I agree with Jack, I see no problem with the FBI utilizing certain assets to access past digital phone records. Honestly, the only case in which this would be somewhat controversial, in my opinion, would be if the government tried to do the same under circumstances where there isn’t a suspected terrorist. So, in another way, I think the government should only be able to access these records when there is probable cause to suspect someone as a threat against national security.

  5. Liz7 says :

    If the FBI wants to access private digital records they should get a warrant. We wouldn’t allow them to do this for written records, there’s no reason they should be permitted to investigate recorded conversations without a warrant. The fourth amendment secures against this, and if the FBI has a reason to believe someone is a terrorist they should have no trouble obtaining one from a judge.

  6. govrobin1 says :

    No, the FBI should not be able to access private digital records at their own will in the name of “fighting terrorism”. I think in special cases, when a warrant is obtained and there is a legitimate cause for suspicion, then the FBI should be able to access these records. Phone calls, and other private conversations, should not be permitted to be used for the purpose of searching for “suspicious activity”, because it is indeed a private conversation and this privacy should only be breached in an instance where it has already been sufficiently proved that there is strong reasoning and evidence that supports that national security is directly in danger, and the phone records can provide critical information.

  7. nicoleb7 says :

    I think as long as the government has a real reason to check your phone records then yes, they should be allowed to do this. If it is a case of national security the government should be given the right to check phone records to fight terrorism. Regarding privacy, if you are not a suspected terrorist and you have nothing to hide I don’t see why it would be a problem to have the government phone tap your phone, they are not looking for personal conversations, they are doing this for the nations security.

  8. 4mary says :

    I think this is a very risky precedent to set. We want to guard against “fighting terrorism” becoming as open ended and as un constrained as something like the commerce clause. This makes me reluctant to condone these actions. I think there is a lot of good that can come from utilizing resources, but I think what’s acceptable needs to be more clearly defined. First off, we don’t even know how they’re doing this, they wouldn’t say in the video, which gives me pause. Perhaps if there was more disclosure about the process and the situations for when this tapping could be applied people would feel better about it.

  9. Crawford4 says :

    I think there is a simple solution here. There needs to be some type of warrant that is easier to obtain than a classic warrant in a criminal case. Sort of like a national security warrant exception. Because in this case hearing the call is necessary there should be at least someone looking over the shoulder of the FBI even if it is just one federal judge.

  10. BenLev4 says :

    I completely support the government’s actions in going back and listening in on old conversations. If such actions have legitimate reasons- those intended to combat terrorism- I fully support such decisions. Also, I believe the warrant Ford is referring to is actually included in the PATRIOT Act- wherein warrants are more easily obtained if the case involves national security. Regardless, I continue to believe that if you have nothing to hide, who cares if the government goes back on your phone calls.

  11. Tanya4 says :

    I don’t think the government should be able to access this information without a warrant. This is clearly a violation of the right to privacy, and if an FBI has reason to believe that there is an act of terror being committed then they should be able to obtain a warrant with little difficulty. The FBI should not be able to access private digital records without probable cause.

  12. Emily1 says :

    I personally approve of this proposal. I have nothing to hide, and if tracing phone calls helps with terrorist efforts, I see no issue. The place where things get tricky is the purpose for going through the records. I believe there has to be a concrete reason, like terrorism in this case, for the government to search through these phone records. The problem in the future would be if this power is extended and overused: not just pertaining to terrorism, but if a looser definition of what is acceptable to use as an excuse to search phone records is created. For now, I see no problem, but these issues may develop in the future.

  13. Nick4 says :

    I don’t really see why so many people are up in arms about this issue. People don’t realize that we are already being tracked in so many other ways. Google tracks every website you visit, as does Facebook, to produce “better advertising for the user”. Also, anyone with a smartphone has a built in tracker on the device. My point is, if you’re doing something bad, chances are there’s already records of what you’re doing. I don’t have a problem with tracing phone calls. I’m willing to sacrifice my freedom of anonymously calling a friend to ask help with homework if it means preventing terrorist attacks. I don’t see the big deal with it. As long as you aren’t doing anything wrong, you’re not going to get in trouble.

  14. emmar4 says :

    In situations concerning national security, probable cause is a fairly easy one to prove; terrorist attacks by which many people were killed certainly meet the standards of probable cause, so no formalities should have to be used in a case like this. I think that the government has a right to track phone calls in this circumstance, and other citizens of the country should be willing, as Nick said, to sacrifice the privacy of their benign phone calls to encourage that justice be served.

  15. iqra07 says :

    As the FBI would do in the case of searching a home or obtaining documents, they should get a warrant in order to access private digital records. Phone calls shouldn’t be used to search for suspicious activity; they should be obtained if there is probable cause of suspicious activity.
    While many people don’t mind having their phone calls recorded because they don’t have anything to hide, allowing the government to have such access sets a scary precedent. How far can they push this? What else will they be able to use this as a justification for?

  16. connor bitterman says :

    As i’ve posted very passionately before on my views about the restrictions of searches and seizures in regard to phone tapping for the purpose of protecting the people of the United States, I think that it is illogical to not give the government the power to do what they believe is best for our people; and as hard as it may be for people to believe, the government does most things with our interest in consideration. Unless you have something to hide, you should have no issue with the government checking up on us every once and a while without actually interfering with our lives, to see to it that no crimes are going under the table that could potentially jeopardize our safety.

  17. Langston4 says :

    I do not believe that phone tapping of any kind is justified without a warrant. It is a clear violation of our rights as citizens and a breach of the 4th Amendment. I know some may argue that if you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn’t be worried (I think someone said it in class when we were talking about stop and frisk), many policies that allow these types of activity based on suspicion can easily lead to profiling. I believe there needs to be a justified suspicion or reason to phone tap someone, and even with that reason, I firmly believe that a warrant needs to be acquired.

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