Does Warrantless Wiretapping Violate Moral Rights?

17 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2007  

Evan Tsen Lee

University of California Hastings College of the Law


The controversy over the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program will not disappear any time soon. Legislators, policymakers, and academics should be thinking about whether and under what circumstances such surveillance should be illegal. A major factor in that decision is the moral status of such wiretapping. This essay, written for a symposium on moral rights to informational privacy, argues that two key determinants in the morality of warrantless wiretapping are (1) whether the subjects of the surveillance are known terrorists; and (2) whether the wiretapping is part of a pre-emptive surveillance program, or instead whether government operatives actually know of concrete facts indicating that warrantless wiretapping is necessary on the present occasion to save innocent lives. Although the secrecy of the Bush Administration program's precise application prevents definitive moral evaluation, it seems likely that significant aspects of the program have violated moral rights.

Keywords: wiretapping, privacy, tradeoffs

Suggested Citation

Lee, Evan Tsen, Does Warrantless Wiretapping Violate Moral Rights?. San Diego Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Evan Tsen Lee (Contact Author)

University of California Hastings College of the Law ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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