“A massive surveillance state. They log your calls here, they can listen in, they can read your emails. They keep the data in mammoth machines that contain a huge collection of information about you and yours.”
This of course is in pursuit of ‘security’ in the age of ‘terror’. But is it excessive?
Peggy Noonan recently wrote the WSJ article “What We Lose if We Give Up Privacy”, and asks (regarding NSA spying and data collection) “Is it excessive?”
It certainly appears to be. Does that matter? YES.
Definitions of privacy from the Oxford English Dictionary:
“freedom from disturbance or intrusion,”
“intended only for the use of a particular person or persons,”
“confidential, not to be disclosed to others.”
While massive surveillance continues to grow, and advances in technology constantly up the ability of what the government can do, will it change the character of the nation?
Yes, because it will change free speech.
The surveillance state is a threat to free speech.
The most important amendment to the Constitution is arguably the First Amendment.
If you don’t have free speech you have to be afraid. You lack a vital part of what it is to be a human being who is free to be who you want to be.
What about those who say, “I have nothing to fear, I don’t do anything wrong”?
That’s a false sense of security.
“When you have this amount of privacy invasion put into these huge data banks, who knows what will come out?”
…Or can be made to come out through misunderstanding the data, or finagling, or mischief of one sort or another.
People say, ‘Well I’ve done nothing wrong so why should I worry?’
But that’s too easy a way to get out of what is in our history… constant attempts to try to change who we are as Americans.”
-the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798
-the Red Scare of the 1920s and the McCarthy era.
Those times and incidents were more than specific scandals or news stories, they were attempts to change our nature as a people.
-Wall Street Journal
What about those who say they don’t care what the federal government does as long as it keeps us safe?
While the threat of terrorism is a reality,
“…you have to be careful about who’s running U.S. intelligence and U.S. security, and they have to be fully versed in and obey constitutional guarantees.”
“There has to be somebody supervising them who knows what’s right…we need someone in charge of the whole apparatus who has read the Constitution.”
-Wall Street Journal
Also at risk is the constitutional right to the presumption of innocence guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment.
The ‘authorities’ must have evidence of guilt (probable cause) before they may disregard that right, and collect additional evidence to use against an individual in a criminal case to prove guilt.
The current practice of collecting so-called “metadata” (another vague term that disguises the reality) from virtually all of us, then storing it forever – just in case anyone commits some offense in the future, violates the Fourth Amendment.
The NSA does not consider us all to be innocent:
It considers us all to be potentially guilty.
Excessive government surveillance violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” and requires that warrants be issued only “upon probable cause . . . particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
(This has been a reminder that this issue has NOT gone away, and WILL get worse).
Some information and quotes sourced from the Wall Street Journal