Analysis of the Newspaper Article
Federalism in the USA is a unique system which controls all the spheres of Americans’ life from political and budget matters to issues connected with education, health care, and social life. The US government takes all the efforts and does its bets to prevent some illegal actions which may cause harm to the global image of the US federal system. Nevertheless, such control may result in the infringement of civil liberties of the Americans.
The article posted on the web-site of The New York Times and headed “More Federal Agencies Are Using Undercover Operations” deals with the issues concerning a lot of undercover agents employed by the federal agencies for crime prevention in different spheres of human life (Lichtblau & Arkin, 2014).
The primary tasks of undercover agents include fraud prevention, the tax evasion prevention, detection of illegal alcohol and cigarette sale, pursuit of the illegal drug trade and investigation of the most serious crimes. Nobody knows the real quantity of undercover agents in the US. There are about 40 federal agencies in the US cooperating with the F.B.I., Department of Homeland Security, Pentagon, and other Departments. One more interesting fact is that some of these departments even arrange training programs for online undercover operations. The approximate quantity of undercover agents is more than 1,100 people who have ever worked or work for the federal agencies (Lichtblau & Arkin, 2014).
It is stressed in the article that Jose Marrero, a former I.R.S. supervisor of Miami highly appreciates the work of undercover agents. He said the following about this kind of job, “These are very sensitive jobs, and they’re scrutinized more closely than others” (Lichtblau & Arkin, 2014).
It should be marked that the information highlighted in the article can be considered true and reliable because the data represented have been provided by former and current undercover agents, representatives of the US Departments which engage undercover agents in their operation.
The article highlights some advantages and disadvantages of undercover agents. The advantages may include real prevention of crimes committing, helping federal agencies to save lives and health of people if case of some mass events such as demonstrations, protests, or strikes. With this in view, the author of the article supports the idea that the use of undercover officers is considered a more effective way of monitoring large crowds. It is stressed that such agents are involved only in situations when there is the danger of severe harm to the US well-being. Great concern about undercover agents is also caused by the fact that actual information about the funds spent on such undercover agents is hidden. It is just known that the funds are used from the US budget, but all these sums are not included in any report or financial statement. The only fact is that all these sums are very huge and amount to millions of dollars (Lichtblau & Arkin, 2014). Speaking about disadvantages many people argue that their civil liberties are infringed. Such undercover agents can be introduced into a specific group of an institution employees . They have special access to the information concerning the employees which can be considered as private. Thus, people do not take special measures for its protection. Moreover, undercover agents cannot be distinguished from common Americans. They can work as teachers, lawyers or physicians. Thus, surrounding people may not have the slightest idea of whom they deal with. It is also stressed that undercover operations are connected with the high level of danger because in some cases the agents have to deal with vicious criminals.
It is evident from the article that the US government and federal agencies representatives worry that the US democracy is threatened in general and the common Americans worry about infringement of their civil liberties the protection of which is guaranteed by the American law according to numerous legislative documents.
Thus, the matter of civil liberties which are an integral part of the American federalism are considered below.
It should be mentioned that September 11 substantially changed the life of the Americans and their views on freedom, federalism, civil liberties, and other parts of human life. Everyone realized the threat to democracy and freedom. That is why different governmental agencies intensified their work including the work connected with undercover operations. All these things are done for the American community. During the first days after terroristic acts, the top leadership of the US made a lot of statements, declared numerous programs choosing the most appropriate variant of further steps concerning businessmen and common people. Nobody clearly realized what the talks were about and what to expect. Numerous changes took place in the USA to improve and protect life of the Americans. Nevertheless, there is a lot of concern for civil rights and liberties of the Americans.
Civil liberties can be defined as follows:
“Civil liberties” concern basic rights and freedoms that are guaranteed -- either explicitly identified in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, or interpreted through the years by courts and lawmakers. Civil liberties include: Freedom of speech, the right to privacy, the right to be free from unreasonable searches of your home, the right to a fair court trial, the right to marry, and the right to vote. (“Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties”, n.d.)
Primary concerns for the violation of civil liberties and conduction of undercover operations are connected with wiretapping.
It is important to consider how simple wiretapping of terrorists’ phone can violate civil liberties of common people. The most evident fact is that the guilt of the person can be proved only in court. At present, there is no method to distinguish terrorists and common people before they commit any illegal act. Thus, a person can be called a terrorist only if he has already committed a terrorist act after which he has stood alive and is fleeing from justice. From the perspective of the law, a person can be considered a terrorist if the above-mentioned information can be applied to him. That means that it is impossible to recognize a person as a terrorist or criminal. Thus, it is unclear how the governmental agencies of the USA particularly F.B.I. determine whether a person could be a criminal or terrorist. It is clear enough that F.B.I. simply traces all communications of the territories within the USA. The analysis will be carried out after that. The same refers to the decision to continue the wiretapping of the specific person. In case with terrorism, the court decision is not required because the USA is fighting terrorism, and all the methods are acceptable. The actual situation is that when a terrorist or a criminal are detected with the help of the above-mentioned methods, the great deal of information on the case is hidden and is not accessible for general public.
There is a special program in the USA called Carnivore. It has been developed for wiretapping of e-mail messages sent to people suspected of criminal acts. As it is clear, data packages are mixed in the network. An additional difficulty is that in the course of every communication session the user receives the new IP-address. This fact imposes more requirements for the system. It should scan the whole traffic to pick out the required information relating to the specific case. Thus, Carnivore scans all the letters to search the ones which fall under certain specified criteria, e.g. containing the key word “bomb”. According to F.B.I., letters which do not conform to the search criteria are deleted (Lichtblau & Arkin, 2014). That means that information on them is not stored in F.B.I. archives. As it can be understood, the situation with perlustration of all the messages is inadmissible, and review of the messages content is legally ungrounded and uncontrolled. That is why many human rights organizations voice their concerns about unauthorized operations of F.B.I. in general and their undercover agents in particular. According to on-line Collins English Dictionary (n.d.), perlustration is “the act of perlustrating; a thorough inspection or survey, especially of letters for purposes of surveillance.” The problem of civil liberties protection is complicated by the fact that their infringement is connected not only with spying by means of telephones or computers but also in the course of private or routine job communication. A person never knows whom he/she is talking to. That is why prejudiced attitude towards someone or misunderstanding of someone may result in unpredictable mistakes which may even threaten the life of such suspected person.
Thus, it is evident that the problem can be solved for the mutual benefits of the parties involved in political, civil, and security processes undergoing in American society. Taking into account everything said above, the most important thing is to determine all cos and props for specifying further steps of protecting not only democracy of the USA but also civil rights and liberties of the American population.
The article which has been posted in New York Times is a very topical one. It deals with the matters which challenge our understanding of the concepts in the real world of politics especially those connected with the civil liberties of the American population which can be infringed by the wide involvement of undercover agents employed by different federal agencies. Direct or indirect interference of the federal agencies into lives of common American requires further consideration and should go far beyond social disputes or articles in mass media. The problem should be solved on the governmental level to gain the best results.
In conclusion, the work of undercover agents in the USA is of paramount importance and cannot be underestimated. Nevertheless, it should be kept in mind by the US top officials that the Americans worry about protection of their liberties. That is why great efforts should be taken by the Federal Government and federal agencies not only to prevent crimes but also to prevent infringement of civil liberties of the American population.