Well, it’s Flag Day in America, so time for a star-spangled rant. We’ve followed the saga of Edward Snowden’s recent “leaks” to the media regarding the NSA and PRISM programs’ blanket collection of ordinary citizens’ communications metadata. Snowden’s story does not entirely add up for us. He has already been caught in one lie, namely the easily-confirmed matter of his salary which he exaggerated by $78,000. More importantly, we’ve concluded, Snowden is NOT the issue.
Since there have been communications at all, there has been the desire and attempts made by some to intercept them. With the birth of the American system of government came a codification – a covenant, if you will – that individuals have rights, specifically, rights to security of person and property and rights from intrusion.
Then came September 11, 2001, followed about six weeks later by the Patriot Act. Gripped by fear from the most horrendous attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor, people – via their elected representatives – hurriedly enacted the broadest abdication of civil liberties in the country’s history. The Patriot Act was followed the next month by the inception of TSA in the hopes that aircraft would never be used again as weapons of mass destruction.
Civil libertarians and constitutional scholars warned of the potential for abuse. But anyone who spoke against the Bush Administration or its policies was deemed a traitor…a desecrator of Ground Zero…and duly told to shut up and sit down.
The next year, Richard Reid tried to light up his shoe on a transatlantic flight. TSA responded by making every airline passenger since doff their shoes. Three million people fly every day, which amounts to 1,095,000,000 per year. So, since ONE inept, would-be terrorist’s ill-fated attempt, in excess of 10,095,000,000 pairs of footwear have been run through conveyors.
Toward the end of 2005, The New York Times broke a story about how President Bush had authorized the NSA to engage in warrantless monitoring of phone and email communications. In 2006, USA Today noted that a database of Americans’ phone records was being compiled with the cooperation of AT&T and Verizon.
That year also marked the first lawsuit being filed. Undaunted, the government initiated PRISM in 2007.
So nothing Snowden has in his possession to “leak” is news. And Snowden is not the issue.
The Patriot Act was extended for an additional four years in 2011. What was, perhaps, understandable and explicable in the immediate wake of the 9/11 tragedy should have been more thoughtfully considered after a decade’s contemplation and upgrading of national security. In particular, we offer the following provisions among those highlighted by the ACLU:
- Section 215 authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible thing,” even if there is no showing that the “thing” pertains to suspected terrorists or terrorist activities. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure, which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person’s privacy.
- Section 206, aka the “roving John Doe wiretap” provision, permits the government to obtain intelligence surveillance orders that identify neither the person nor the facility to be tapped. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure, which require government to state with particularity what it seeks to search or seize.
We’ve heard many people, along all points of the political spectrum, say “But 3,000 people died. I want to be safe.” Keep in mind that for an entire month prior to 9/11, George W. Bush was on vacation. Those who worked in national security at the time were aware that something was afoot and tried to sound the alarm. The system, with your civil liberties still intact, was functioning (short a few translators that could have made it work better, but functioning). Shrub cleared brush. (See: https://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/911comm-sec8.pdf)
Some say, “I post all that stuff to social media and companies I do business with already collect my data.” The difference, though, is that you volunteer what to share via social media. You authorize companies to collect data in the course of conducting business with them. And there are boundaries as to what they may lawfully do with the information.
Another argument we’ve heard is “I’m not doing anything wrong; I have nothing to hide. The government can look at my calls and emails.” News Flash! The government isn’t looking for your acquiescence or your permission. Further, when you give away your rights, you are also giving away the rights of others who may be equally innocent, but feel differently. The McCarthy-era HUAC hearings clearly demonstrated what a megalomaniac imbued with extra-constitutional authority can accomplish by playing on fear, “spun” information and guilt by association.
Because of the direct actions of a very few, twisted individuals, we are – every one of the estimated 315,000,000 us – considered by our government to be and to be treated as criminals. Prospective terrorists. America-hating subversives.
That assumption is misinformed. We are not criminals, terrorists or subversives. We still operate as though our Fourth and Ninth Amendment rights still apply. We still think we have the “presumption of innocence” on our side. The Patriot Act supersedes these legal constructs. And THAT is the issue.
© 2013 POLIGAGS
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.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE