CHAPTER 4 Brief History of Privacy and Selected Electronic Surveillance Laws

James P. Martin

The framers of the Constitution established into law the basic right of privacy through the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

While the framers likely did not consider the technological advancements that would be forthcoming over the coming years and centuries, the interpretation of the Constitution continued to evolve. New technologies often create issues that exceed the definitions within existing law, and courts must attempt to rationalize the new technology allegorically to an understood and defined issue until new laws are passed. The framers understood written correspondence, and the importance of privacy in the mail. The telegraph represented a leap forward in communication in the mid-1800s, as did telephone communication in the late 1800s.

As technology advanced, so did the law enforcement capabilities of the U.S. government. The U.S. Marshal Service began on September 24, 1789, when President George Washington appointed the first 13 U.S. Marshals following the passage of the first Judiciary Act. The Secret Service Division was created on July 5, 1865, in Washington, ...

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