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Watergate was just a private break-in by private actors. To preclude either Watergate or Cointelpro from ever occurring again, and in response to Justice Douglas’ warnings about illegal uses of electronic surveillance, Congress passed laws to conform surveillance to the twin mandates of the First and Fourth Amendment.
The means our government uses — to protect the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Americans without sacrificing the country’s security needs for information gathering on foreign threats — is a process known as “minimization” and “masking.” The point of the minimization and masking protocols is to insure America’s eavesdropping on foreigners “safeguards the constitutional rights of U.S. persons.” These protocols are not merely internal rules nor discretionary guidelines; they are the necessary legislatively delegated means “required to protect the privacy rights of U.S. persons” provided for by the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution. Violating these provisions does more than violate mere regulatory restrictions; violating these provisions violates the Constitutional rights of Americans. That is why the law criminalizes such action when taken “under color of law” by rogue agents.
Law - Sanctions - Government - Officials - Surveillance
The law imposes criminal sanctions on government officials who “engage in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized” by statutes and governing regulations implementing those statutes. This same criminal law makes a person “guilty of an offense” if she intentionally “discloses or uses information obtained under color of law by electronic surveillance, knowing or having reason to know that the information was obtained” in a manner “not authorized” by law. Notably, the law enforcement defense is limited to “law enforcement or investigative officer” cleared to do so by a search warrant or court order. The crime imposes a term of imprisonment up to sixty months in a federal prison. The point of the law criminalizing rogue agents either intercepting...
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