With more power, AG should act responsibly

Published 10:18 am Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fourth-term Attorney General Jim Hood says he’s asking Mississippi lawmakers to give his office the power to do wiretaps to investigate human trafficking and white-collar crime.

Right now, Hood’s office can only do wiretaps for drug cases.

While we are all for more criminals being locked up, we also recognize the controversial nature of a wiretap. It’s clearly an invasion of privacy, but one that society has accepted as a reasonable measure to help ensure the safety of citizens.

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Some will argue that it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment, but courts have generally disagreed.

A warrant is required before a wiretap can be utilized on any American citizen, so there are protections in place to prevent needless wiretaps, in theory.

The trade-off between privacy and security is one that Americans are increasingly more comfortable making. Already, smart phones give away our location and provide other useful data to cell carriers. That information is easily accessed by law enforcement agencies.

Law enforcement agencies don’t need a warrant to monitor numbers for incoming and outgoing calls in real time, as well as the duration of the calls, according to ProPublica.

There are obvious ways that wiretaps can be abused, and there have been high profile cases where wiretaps were found to be used illegally. If Hood’s office is granted more wiretapping authority, it’s crucial that the power be used responsibly and legally. It’s also important that there is transparency and accountability. Unchecked surveillance by any government agency is a danger to the freedoms that make this nation great.