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Polarized public policy

Select a contemporary issue that that has generated polarized view points (environmental policy, taxation and income redistribution, benefits for same-sex couples, worker's rights, and etc.). After selecting the issue, describe the competition between elite groups and/or special interest groups in regard to related policy decisions and how the issue has been debated. For example, one could examine environmentalist versus big business approach to the question of whether the lumber industry should have access to old growth forests. Or, one could examine how specific institutional elites have competed over issues such as free speech or "family values."

After providing the information requested above, provide your own assessment of whether or not the factionalism you have described has contributed to a healthy debate regarding the selected issue and provided equitable outcomes in regard to related public policy. Is Madison's hope that the checks and balances in the Constitution and the existence of opposing factions working sufficiently so the general good is not being sacrificed for the good of powerful elite and special interests?

Solution Preview

I reviewed the arguments on the security wiretapping debate and provided some sources as well as the fourth amendment and law precedents the arguments are based on. I left it for you to provide your own assessment with a couple of ideas of the direction you may want to take.

One of the most polarized discussions today is on the new policies of wiretapping by the federal government as a protection against terrorism. One side is arguing that the wiretap is a necessary evil under the new threats we find since 9/11. The opposite side argues that the Constitution and previous precedents strictly prohibit use of wiretaps as a privacy issue. The law current allows wiretaps only on the approval of a judge, who listens to arguments to ensure the wiretap is necessary. The only exception, cell phone providers must provide information about the location of cell tower through which cell phone calls are made.
In August of 2006, a judge in the United States District Court in the 6th District ruled the wiretaps were illegal and issued an immediate stop to the practice. The Justice Department requested an appeal hearing and a stay of the order. One of the judge's problems came with the government's argument that insinuated the president has inherent powers that allow him to circumvent the law (MSNBC, 2006). The FCC has jurisdiction over the communications. The agency has to approve all changes to wiretapping rules, many of which then go to court.
According to President Bush in an April 2004 in Buffalo, New York, he justified his approval and encouragement of the program. As he points out, previous to 9/11 the attacks along with preparation were done mostly overseas. Few attacks were carried out inside the country. The previous bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 is one of the limited attacks. The attacks by domestic planes on domestic targets were planned and trained for inside the borders of the United States. Now the country has to be on the offensive using what tools we have available. He referred to the Patriot Act as part of the argument, though there is nothing in the Patriot Act about wiretapping. The opposing view uses this as a tool to show his ability to present shaky supports for his actions. These types of actions are taken against drug lords and dealers, with permission of courts. The threat of terrorists plotting more destruction is seen by the administration as more important and the availability of the tool of wiretapping or roving wiretaps without warrants is a perfect tool. The use of warrants could be a warning to those terrorists.
The supporters agree that the current dangers are worth the lack of warrants in wiretapping. Subjugating the law is acceptable in the protection of the homeland and the national interest outweighs the personal interests of the citizens. According to Fox News fifty eight percent of the citizens approve of the wiretapping, but worry about the "tracking of terrorists are harming American's civil liberties." (Fox News, 2006) Those who agree with the program also say the president should have the power to create and authorize programs the security advisers see as protective measures.
Those opposed are also concerned about the civil liberties of citizens and say the current practice already infringes on those liberties. The citizens against the program point to the fourth amendment as one reason for their dismay. Others are concerned that the administration, with the Justice Department taking the lead, has insinuated the judicial system does not jurisdiction over the program under the National Security Agency. The argument is "the president still retains the inherent authority to engage ...

Solution Summary

A discussion on the policy of wiretapping by the government. There are both ethical, political, and constitutional issues on the line for those using wiretapping as a method of gaining information on suspected terrorists.