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When the top U.S. Schools’ think-tank discussed privacy rights…
By Gitanjali Hazarika

UC Davis School of Law’s Wilkins Moot Court room witnessed think-tanks at work when it played host to 11 erudite men, all participants at the UC Davis Law Review's annual symposium. 

These scholars thought – and thought hard – about the national security surveillance and individual privacy.  They discussed topics ranging from cell phones to immigration to Presidential power — all in one day!

David Richardson, editor-in-chief of the UC Davis Law Review, was confident that the topic, based on the present National Security Administration’s surveillance program, was controversial enough to spark a great debate between proponents and opponents. 

In an age when privacy is treated like public property, the legal scholars debated how the Fourth Amendment would protect a person's privacy in the midst of national security surveillance.

The three-panel discussion concentrated on the topic entitled "Katz v. United States: 40 Years Later — From Warrantless Wiretaps to the War on Terror,” discussing leading personal privacy issues, including privacy norms, socio-psychological theories of autonomy, and issues pertaining to homosexuality.

Tim Casey of Case Western Reserve University School of Law discussed the government's right to initiate a "real-time tracking device" via cell phone, asserting that government officials have a right to “material relevant to an ongoing investigation.”

Cell phones have the ability to pinpoint a person's exact location and outgoing calls.  However, it’s important to note that the current standards for implementing the cell phone tracking device is very low. 

Additionally, Professor Raquel Aldana of the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Professor Anil Kalhan of Fordham University School of Law, discussed privacy issues pertaining to illegal immigrants.

Aldana purported that the privacy of illegal immigrants are often jeopardized when they are compelled to identify their citizenship status under stressful circumstances such as immigration raids. 

Kalhan rebutted by stating that immigrants don’t wear their citizenship status “on the sleeves,” and often are not targets of suspicion.

Professor Tracey Maclin of the Boston University School of Law questioned the Bush administration's ability to perform electronic surveillance while abiding to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance guidelines. 

Maclin, criticizing the move, stated that the President's intrinsic power as CEO and commander-in-chief does not bestow in him such exclusive and unlimited powers. 

Professor Glenn Sulmasy of the United States Coast Guard Academy, however, rebutted Maclin’s contention, asserting that the President has a right to our privacy when the nation’s security is in jeopardy. He argued that the government should take a "proactive, not reactive" position since it has to deal with elusive "ghost" enemies such as Al-Qaeda. 

The debate continued onwards as scholars probed the legality of national security surveillance, but there are still no conclusions, no resolutions.  The real debate is on.  And to think, the day’s discussion might have set the alarm bells ticking in a few more heads…

Cartoon taken from:


Posted on: 03/14/2007 07:52 AM | Number of feedback 4


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