Terrorist threats against US interests may be domestic or international in scope. International terrorism is generally conducted to protest US foreign policy, or draw international attention to a social cause. Al-Qaeda was formed as an organization that was protesting the US military presence in the Middle East, which they viewed as a threat to Islam (Pape, 2003, p.7). When a US group conducts a terrorist act on US soil, it is considered to be domestic terrorism. Domestic terrorists are generally extremists that have radicalized views on social programs and policies.
Until recently, domestic terrorism was classed as a criminal act, and was investigated and prosecuted as a crime. More recent legislation has differentiated the criminal act from the terrorist act, and the law has made special investigation and prosecuting provisions available to law enforcement. Law enforcement has expanded powers to gather intelligence, collect evidence, and the labeling of an act as terrorism carries stiffer penalties than a simple crime.
International terrorists can be labeled as 'enemy combatants' and forfeit certain rights to due process, and may be held without being charged or tried. In addition, their residences may be searched, personal records seized, and bank accounts frozen with fewer restrictions on obtaining a warrant.
The combination of technology and our nation's need for security has changed the way surveillance is conducted, as well as the ease with which it is justified. Surveillance has moved from a manual task that involved eyes and ears, to a much more automated system of recorders and cameras. In addition, modern electronic communications, and the Internet, is readily available to law enforcement to monitor. Local and federal courts are more willing to engage in high-tech surveillance due to the grave threats that are present in society.
There is little debate in regards to the fact that the increase in intelligence gathering and surveillance has eroded our nation's fundamental rights. The debate has become; how many of our civil rights are we willing to sacrifice The American Bar Association (n.d.) contends that, "the government must have the tools necessary to do everything possible to prevent another attack on our nation", and goes on to warn that there is a "significant risk of excessive use of government surveillance authority without adequate oversight" (p.12). The expanded powers, and the technology available, greatly increases the possibility of abuse or misuse for personal or private gain.
There should be no restrictions on the technology made available to law enforcement. If it can be used prudently to protect Americans and their interests, then it should be. There is an increased need for self-regulation by departments and organizations to use it sparingly and only when necessary.
4.) FISA Court
Any time intelligence gathering, or suspects, involves a foreign country, the case is processed through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court. The FISA court "establishes a legal regime for "foreign intelligence" surveillance separate from ordinary law enforcement surveillance" (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, n.d.). The FISA Court, which makes it easier to obtain a warrant, gives law