The First Amendment in the United States Constitution was created to protect individuals’ rights to practice free speech, press, and religion. However, the government safeguarding these rights at all times has been challenging. After the 9/11/ attack on New York City by Muslim terrorists, American rights to privacy and speech reduced. Muslim people felt the heat from people who thought that all Muslims were terrorists. The creation of the Patriot Act by President George Bush stated that any American at any time could be jailed for any reason if suspected of terrorism. In addition to this, no reason had to be given. The “right to assemble” did not apply to Al Qaeda, a terrorist Islamic operation that threatened the United States’ safety .
I feel that public should know about activities that affect them, especially ones that invade one’s privacy, such as phone calls being monitored. Americans do have a public right to know, especially when the Constitution states certain rights in the first amendment. In spite of the government protecting people’s privacy and freedom of speech rights, at various times, the United States government has not done this or upheld the public’s right to know. Edward Snowden, is an example of this. Snowden, a prior CIA employee, was arrested after he revealed some information that impacted the American public to a journalist. He talked about two government programs that allowed for “the seizure of all telephone metadata in the U.S. and another dealing with an effort to monitor Internet activities overseas using the resources of American technology firms” . Snowden felt that American citizens should know about their phone calls being monitored, which interferes with their first amendment’s freedom of speech rights. Snowden also should have had freedom of the press for himself, the journalist an institution that informs the American public about important things.
As far as the public learning about certain activities, I feel that public should know about monitoring activities, such as phones being tapped. Perhaps, some people have things that they prefer to keep private, but are not illegal, such as a couple engaging in an open marriage. Somebody could also be gay but out yet. These are things that are private, but still legal, that people may not want to share with other individuals. If the public knows about possible monitoring, they can choose to be more careful about what is said on the phone and can choose to talk about more personal topics in person.
As you can see, the public has the right to know, the first amendment protecting American’s rights to speech, religion, and press. While the Patriot Act and tapping phones were implemented to ensure American citizens’ safety, the public has the right to know about them. Snowden was only exercising his free speech and press rights, Snowden protecting the public’s right to know.
- Miller, Z. J. (2013, June 9). Four Things to Know About Surveillance Leaker Edward Snowden. Retrieved from TIME Magazine Website : http://swampland.time.com/2013/06/09/four-things-to-know-about-surveillance-leaker-edward-snowden/
- The Constitution of the United States of America. (1787). New York: American Civil Liberties Union.
- The USA PATRIOT Act: preserving life and liberty . (2014, April ). Retrieved from The United States Department of Justice : http://www.justice.gov/archive/ll/highlights.htm