or her name is put onto a do-not-fly list because of recent large purchases of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil and a truck rental.

There is a different view that arises from the sheer imbalance between the power of the state and that of the individual. This imbalance makes some citizens understandably anxious about the information-gathering abilities of the state. Consequently, the disparity in resources that can be brought to bear by the state versus those that are available to most individuals also justifies the imposition of certain limits on government’s information gathering—even if such limits complicate or impede the task of law enforcement agencies.


Nowhere is the disparity of power and resources greater than that between the individual citizen and the federal government. At the same time, it is primarily the federal government that needs to gather information not only for law enforcement purposes but also to ensure the national security of the country. Such data-gathering activity differs in several respects from similar activities performed for law enforcement, notably in the procedures that must be followed, the oversight that constrains the intelligence agencies, and the ability of those about whom data is gathered to view and amend or correct that data.


The general category of national security comprises many functions of government, including those performed by the armed forces and federal law enforcement agencies. However, the term “national security” has recently become associated with the agencies of the federal government that are most directly involved in the gathering and analysis of intelligence information relating to threats against the United States, and those agencies of other governments that play a similar role for other countries. The tension between individual privacy and national security arises, for the most part, with regard to these intelligence-gathering and analysis functions for national security.

While the information-gathering role of the government in law enforcement serves mainly to aid detection and conviction of a suspect after a law has been violated, the role of government agencies charged with protecting national security often entails gathering information about possible future threats, and identifying possible ways to change or control that future. Indeed, the role of an intelligence agency can be characterized as ensuring that its government knows all the secrets of its

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