There is need for public administrators to understand constitutional values especially in privacy issues. Transparency is one of the main preconditions for a successful public sector. It goes hand in hand with accountability. This principle has issues to do with the duty of the administration and the respective citizens in regards to access to information. Professionalism in public administration processes protects the public from inefficiencies due to instability, inertia and irrationality which may be as a result of political intervention. Surveillance appears as a form of social control and a counter-challenge of the bureaucratic control. Over the years, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ensures that their transparency in public issues and stresses on the risks associated with terrorism.
Previously, any wiretapping of US citizens especially by the National Security Agency (NSA) was to be accompanied by a court warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance act. The congress passed the patriotic Act after the 9-11 terror attacks which granted the US president more powers to enable him fight terrorism. President George W. Bush administration had been given the authority to bypass the FISA court and went ahead directing the NSA to spy directly on Al Qaeda. Reports indicate that these activities resulted in an Interception of the domestic communications which was challenged as unconstitutional. Amid the outrage of NSA spying on the communication of citizens and foreign leaders, it appears inevitable to control the violation of privacy. Rosenbloom et al. (2009) asserts, “Understanding then nature of conflicts and tensions between public administration and democratic constitutionalism” is helpful towards solving conflicts in privacy issues.
Privacy is a human right which the United States is obliged to respect within and outside the country. The US government should also have in consideration and accept the global obligation of protecting everyone’s privacy. Rosenbloom et al. (2009) suggested that the role of public administrator is to “promote the public interest” provide it acts within the “framework of the constitution.” Therefore, mass surveillance may not be a problem to the citizens of America, and the problem only arises when the information is used to harass, interrogate and detain people.
We may be benefitting from the government spying on foreigners, but the real setback is when my government is spying on me. Economic espionage surveillance such as spying on leaders sows distrust, but do gains accrue from cessation in spying? The state may decide not to tap a leader’s cell phone mainly because it annoys the person while all he does is to organize corrupt and dubious deals.
Typically, when people talk about human rights, they tend to view or think about rights against being tortured, separation from family, and killing by security forces and detention without reason. Privacy is however more complex and is often contested. The public, therefore, only accepts mass surveillance but only as a price for security. Human rights should not be violated under all circumstances.
Suppose the NSA in the surveillance process retrieves the emails of foreigners and refines the keywords. Sometimes a false positive is netted and the analyst unfortunately gets to read someone’s email to his doctor, lover or therapist then ascertains that they show no information linking them to terrorist or security threats and finally deletes them. The sender of the e-mail may never find out what happened while the analyst may not know who the person is. In this case it is difficult to point out the human rights violated compared to when a security officer overhears personal conversation of a snatch by the roadside.
There is a possibility that the NSA might misuse the collected information to harass the suspected terrorist when there is, in fact, no evidence of a particular behavior. This precisely demonstrates why privacy is different from the other values. This is why it makes constitutional sense to offer privacy protection to citizens of a country.
Rosenbloom, D. H., Kravchuk, R., &Clerkin, R. (2009). Public administration: Understanding management, politics, and law in the public sector (7th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill