Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Ethics and Policy Studies


Political Science

First Committee Member

Mark J. Lutz, Chair

Second Committee Member

David Fott

Third Committee Member

Rebecca Wood Grill

Graduate Faculty Representative

Deborah Shaffer

Number of Pages



There is a continual debate between individuals who attempt to measure the individual’s right to privacy against the government’s right to know in order to provide for the security of all citizens.

The questions that beg to be answered are whether the individual’s right to privacy outweighs the government’s duty to provide security; and if security is deemed more important, can there even be a right to privacy. It is critical to our nation’s anti-terrorism effort that our intelligence agencies possess the legal capacity to intercept all forms of communications utilized by terrorists and hostile intelligence agents. Inevitably this will lead to less privacy for everyone as a whole and the examination that follows will discuss the changes in the legal right to privacy that followed September 11, 2001.

In light of the diminished personal freedoms in this post 9/11 world, we need to study the right to privacy if we are to determine what the boundaries of personal freedom are. It is necessary to reiterate the importance of the right to privacy and its reinforcement of human dignity. Both philosophical and legal arguments that support the right toprivacy put forth human dignity as the driving focus and underlying principle for privacy. There is an inherent need for dignity and self-respect in every human being, and the right to privacy acknowledges and (one hopes) protects this need. It is important to be vigilant in studying the documentation of the strengthening or lessening of this right with regards to everyday life as well as the governmental impact of changing laws. Finally it serves to examine whether the government can continue to provide a “safe” way of life for its citizens by sacrificing the privacy of those same citizens (with safety as the primary priority), or is safety an excuse for this invasion, in essence an abuse of power with safety an essentially irrelevant issue.

The purpose of the study is to focus primarily on the legal and practical arguments for and against the right to privacy. The goal is to understand whether the human right to privacy should exist in light of the continued threat of terrorist attack (foreign and domestic) and the general public safety. Should an individual’s right to privacy outweigh society’s right to safety (in both physical and economic matters)? Is it even possible for privacy as it is traditionally defined to continue to exist? Existing case law will be looked at along with its impact in changing legislation (if any). Social contract theory will also be used to further define the government’s role in providing security for its citizens and the implications that represents in daily life.


Civil rights; Conflict of laws — Privacy; Right of; National security; Patriot act; Privacy; Privacy; Right of; Social contract theory; Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT ACT) Act of 2001


Ethics and Political Philosophy | Legal Theory | Political Science | Political Theory

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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