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<b>How did you first become interested in writing about the American surveillance state? What attracted you to the topic?</b>
Surveillance and privacy became some of the biggest civil liberties issues after 9/11, and my boss David Theroux at the Independent Institute urged me to write something in light of the NSA revelations. I had mostly focused on civil liberties in my work there. After my first book, which explored the historical and legal problems posed by detention policy and habeas corpus, surveillance made a lot of sense.
<b>When did the American government start spying on both foreign nationals and its own citizens? What did they hope to achieve?</b>
We have a very different understanding of privacy today. Today it relates much more to the intimate life of the individual rather than private property. Up until the late nineteenth century, there was very little talk of “privacy” in this modern sense; the Fourth Amendment, which rarely inspired court decisions, concerned the integrity over physical bodies and belongings. There were statutory protections of privacy concerning the mail, but government warrantless wiretapping, as an example, was mostly legal because it did not involve physical trespass, but rather intangible signals. The Supreme Court didn’t apply modern conceptions of privacy through the Fourth Amendment until the late 1960s. Conservatives who rail against the modern conception of privacy as discovered by liberal jurists must therefore find another argument against such government wiretapping as conducted by the NSA.
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<b>The 4th Amendment protects Americans from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” but it does not appear to be well suited to combating modern surveillance. Has the 4th Amendment served as a meaningful bulwark against expanding surveillance? Should Americans consider drafting a new constitutional amendment to codify American privacy protections that reflect the realities of the new surveillance state?</b>