Today I had the opportunity to interview some of the spirited demonstrators from Restore the Fourth. They spent more than six hours standing in the hot sun in front of the Old Courthouse (where Dred Scott was granted his freedom prior to the U.S. Supreme Court reversal). Their object was to educate the general public as to Fourth Amendment rights and the various ways that the federal government (including the NSA) is violating those rights.
I sympathize greatly with this cause. There is a reason why all of us invest in locks for our doors and passwords for our computers. We DO have an expectation of privacy when we call a friend to discuss wrenching life decision-making. We expect that NSA employees don’t have access to our bank account information, our emails, our Facebook messaging to individuals (or even to our posts when we’ve limited access to our Friends). How much trouble with our “computers” has been caused by the NSA invading our networks without warrants? Since when is it not search or seizure for a government employee to copy our personal communications? Many people react by thinking that there ought to be a law to prevent this, but there already is a law–the Fourth Amendment. This law should be observed or repealed after the People of the United States are fully informed about the extent that the government wants access to our personal communications and meta-data revealing our social networks. Since when is invading our privacy not a big deal, such that the government simply does it without probable cause? How much identity theft has been caused by a NSA employee or contractor swiping our personal identifiers or our financial information?
In addition to invading our privacy, the NSA has destroyed the ability to do investigative journalism. The government has declared war on the right of American citizens to know what their own government is doing. Because investigative journalism is severely chilled, the only way for people to learn of government misconduct is when an extraordinarily courage individual such as Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden risks his life by leaking or blowing the whistle. And based on the way our own government treated Bradley Manning, future whistle blowers know that they will likely be tortured by the U.S. government, even prior to be charged with any crime or convicted of any crime.
Obviously, this is a fast moving story, and we will learn a lot about whether our elected representatives have the courage or the intelligence to go after the surveillance-industrial complex. I’m not optimistic, because our politicians cling to the strategy of selling us terrorism nightmares and pretending that they can protect us from those “terrorists” or “insurgents” who supposedly hate us for our freedom
The bottom line is that we all need to get involved with our representatives. There is much to be lost by a government policy that destroys the ability of citizens to keep their private things private.