US Government Eavesdropping on Electronic Communications: Where Are We Going?

Vol. 10 No. 2

By

Konrad Trope is the managing shareholder of Centurion Law Group, P.C., located in Beverly Hills, California. Mr. Trope serves an international clientele focusing on technology, eCommerce, telecommunications, health care, and intellectual property matters. He currently is active with the Health Law and Life Sciences Committee and the Cyberspace Committee of the ABA Business Law Section. He formerly served as the chairman of the American Bar Association’s Section of Science & Technology Law’s VoIP Committee.

The firestorm of controversy from the June 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden of the unprecedented scope of government eavesdropping on electronic communications has enveloped people from all degrees of the political spectrum. Moreover, the controversy seems to keep growing with monthly, if not weekly, developments that keep fueling the maelstrom.

Interestingly, it seems that most members of the public and the media perceived the eavesdropping or data-gathering activity by the National Security Agency (NSA) as the first indication of any large-scale telecommunication interception or telecommunication data gathering by the US government. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Wiretapping by the federal government has been the subject of Supreme Court decisions dating back as far as 1928. By 1962, Congress established the core statutory basis for interception of telecommunications that continues to the present. Indeed, since 1994, Congress has passed additional critical legislation, which various agencies have implemented, that has greatly expanded the breadth and depth of government interception of private citizen communications. In short, the NSA is perhaps only the newest publicly identified player within the federal government’s arsenal of telecommunication interception.

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