Consider a scenario involving a full-blown surveillance: email monitoring, cellphone monitoring, online activity monitoring, credit card monitoring, bank account monitoring, and also, 24x7, door-step, snitching-neighbors.

Also consider that the target of this surveillance is a vanilla, boring, life-long law-abiding citizen, with no criminal-record whatsoever.

How high is the bar to allow for such surveillance to target such individual? Is it lawful? Is it abuse of power?

  • 1
    I assume you mean legal surveillance by the government, and they have no evidence suggesting criminal activity, is that correct?
    – user6726
    Jan 7, 2018 at 14:46

1 Answer 1


The standard is different for some of the kinds of surveillance described than others.

24x7, door-step, snitching-neighbors doesn't require any justification at all, except to convince someone that the time and money is worth it. It is not, in a constitutional sense a "search".

Cell phone monitoring (meaning wiretapping) requires a sworn statement demonstrating probable cause to believe that is a crime has been, or is in the process of being, committed.

In the alternative, if the surveillance involves a non-U.S. person, and the motive for doing so is espionage, pretty much all that an intelligence agency has to do is say that it is interested.

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