4th Amendment reminder

June 7, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States:

The document which formerly guaranteed the rights of the people

The document which formerly guaranteed the rights of the people

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.

Congress insists that the massive, invasive, unprecedented spying that they have authorized the government to perform is legal and necessary to stop terrorists.  I didn’t notice any exceptions written into the Bill of Rights that nullify the rights in cases of terrorism.  The harshest dictator in the world may claim the ability to eradicate violence by searching everybody on his merest whim of suspicion, but tyranny of that sort is exactly what the Constitution is supposed to prevent.

In any case, the authorities claim that information scooped up in their massive dragnet has proven valuable in stopping terrorist plots.  This might be asking too much, but can we have any proof that this is the case?  It certainly hasn’t proven valuable in stopping the Boston Marathon bombing, or the mailing of ricin letters, or the Fort Hood shootings, …. come to think of it, this massive surveillance scheme hasn’t prevented any terrorist attacks of which I am aware.  If such programs cannot stop attacks like the Boston bombing, even when the FBI and CIA were both aware of the alleged attackers beforehand, then what good is it?  It seems to me that we have traded our rights for an empty promise of security, and now we have ended up with neither.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. — attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Officials likewise seek to assure us that this surveillance is strictly limited to persons outside the United States.  Such assurance ring hollow, however.  How many customers of Verizon are strictly located outside the United States, as an example?  Given that they are scooping up all records at the server level, it’s plainly untrue that such searches are limited to those outside the country.

Please note also that we would not know any of this were it not for some heroic whistleblower(s)? from within.  This is why whistleblower protections are so key.  The existence of these programs were not scheduled to be declassified until (at least) 2038, according to the dates on the court order authorizing the Verizon surveillance.  The Most Transparent Administration in History™  has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all other administrations combined. James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, has signaled the intention to pursue the leaker in this case as well, saying, “The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

One of the earliest NSA whistleblowers spoke out back in 2005.  Here is what he had to say (emphasis mine):

“As a Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) officer it is continually drilled into us that the very first law chiseled in the SIGINT equivalent of the Ten Commandments (USSID-18) is that Thou shall not spy on American persons without a court order from FISA.  This law is continually drilled into each NSA intelligence officer throughout his or her career. The very people that lead the National Security Agency have violated this holy edict of SIGINT.”  A pivotal question in this case is whether Americans were being spied on via a vacuum cleaner approach wherein vast amounts of information are sucked in.  FISA warrants require a name of the target and would not cover such a mass approach. . . In addition to knowing this fundamental commandment of not violating the civil rights of Americans, intelligence officers are required to take an oath to protect the United States Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic.  It is with my oath as a US intelligence officer weighing heavy on my mind that I wish to report to congress acts that I believe are unlawful and unconstitutional.  The freedom of the American people cannot be protected when our constitutional liberties are ignored and our nation has decayed into a police state.

Please take a few moments to read this Wired article which explains to future Deep Throat candidates how to leak information of this sort safely.  It’s really quite terrifying to consider how far things have changed in a few short years.  Even the author of the Patriot Act, Jim Sensenbrenner, has repudiated this sort of unbridled spying on American citizens:

“While I believe the Patriot Act appropriately balanced national security concerns and civil rights, I have always worried about potential abuses. The Bureau’s broad application for phone records was made under the so-called business records provision of the Act.  I do not believe the broadly drafted FISA order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American.”

This is it, the dystopia of 1984 has arrived.  War is peace, freedom is slavery, and we have always been at war allies with al-Qaeda.

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Category: Civil Rights, Communication, Current Events, Law Enforcement Abuses, Orwellian, Privacy, Secrecy, Spying, Whistle-blowers

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is a full-time wage slave and part-time philosopher, writing and living just outside Omaha with his lovely wife and two feline roommates.

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