Dr. Vaughn Examines War on Terrorism and 4th Amendment

Student with liberty shirt is shown in Dr. Vaughn seminar.
Dr. Mike Vaughn discussed the 4th Amendment and the War on Terrorism during his presentation on the U.S. Constitution.

The Wars on Terrorism, Crime and Drugs have taken a toll on the 4th Amendment of the U.S Constitution, Dr. Michael Vaughn told students gathered for Constitution Day, a two-day series of lectures examining the founding document for the nation.

“The War on Crime, the War on Drugs and the War on Terrorism have taken a real bite out of the 4th Amendment,” Dr. Vaughn said. “It’s hard to draw the line between national security and privacy. People need to protect the rights we have and focus on the 4th Amendment. There is no guarantee that these rights will exist in the future.”

The 4th Amendment is “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.” It protects people from having evidence seized illegally.

In 1914, the exclusionary rule was created to exclude evidence in court that was obtained in violation of the 4th Amendment. It was first applied to federal agents only and in 1967, in Katz v. the U.S., the Supreme Court affirmed the right of people’s privacy, giving constitutional protection where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.


Dr. Mike Vaughn is a legal scholar in the College of Criminal Justice.

Many of those rights have been eroded under the War on Terrorism. While most arrests occur without the use of a warrant, suspects are entitled to a hearing before a Magistrate within 48 hours to review probable cause for the arrest.

Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01 in New York and Washington, D.C., 1,200 people were arrested and detained for months without a Magistrate’s hearing. All but 93 have since been released, with the remaining suspects held on immigration, not terrorism charges.

The Patriot Act allowed the FBI and the CIA and related agencies to share intelligence on domestic and international issues, which many fear has led to more “fishing expeditions” and “data mining” to connect people to crime. In 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act created a secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, made up of 11 federal district court judges, to review applications by federal law enforcement officials for warrants related to national security investigations.

Through hearing before the secret Court, President George W. Bush authorized the use of warrantless ease dropping of phone calls, e-mails and other electronic communications within this country that may contain information about terrorist attacks. That practice has been continued extensively under President Barack Obama using his authority as Commander-in-Chief and Congressional authorization for the War in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda.
“Obama is much more hawkish on terrorism than you think,” said Dr. Vaughn.


Dr. Vaughn discussed government policies that have led to the erosion of privacy rights.

Police also have stepped up the use of “sneak and peek” warrants, in which government officials are authorized to enter a house to look for criminal information without a warrant and once evidence is found, they can request a warrant from a judge to seize property. The practice has been used not only against terrorism, but to monitor other groups in the United States, such as Greenpeace and Arab American organizations.

“Most of the “Sneak and Peek” warrants have been used for drugs,” Dr. Vaughn said. “Less than 1 percent of them have been used for terrorism.”

The government also introduced National Security Letters, which allow the FBI to demand personal customer records from Internet service providers, financial institutions and credit card companies without the need for a warrant. “It’s a way to gather information on Americans without a judge’s approval,” said Dr. Vaughn.
The government also is using racial profiling based on race and religion in the War on Terrorism and participates in “rendition light,” which allows terrorism suspects to be sent to another country to be interrogated by foreign agents.

“Why is this important?” Dr. Vaughn asked students. “Privacy is at the very foundation of our country. If you don’t have privacy, you don’t have dignity. It helps curb government and protect individual rights.”

Member of The Texas State University System