“A Republic, If You Can Keep It”

NSA 9000

I’m really disturbed (surprised isn’t quite the right word) at what I’m learning about the government’s massive, untargeted surveillance of millions of American citizens over the last 7 years. I thought we had this debate during the Bush administration and all decided it was illegal and should stop. Apparently, folks at the NSA and in the Bush and Obama administrations had different ideas.

In case you aren’t aware, a secret court has created secret law supposedly authorizing the federal government to spy on you, your friends, and your family. That means every email you read or write, every search you run on Google, every call you make on Skype. And the bureacracy asking the secret FISA court for approval to do this is so massive and so obscured by secrecy that there exists no single list of all of its activities. It’s called Big Brother, after all.

In my mind this is a clear violation of the fourth amendment:

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.

No, it doesn’t mention electronic communications (not having been invented by 1789), but they are the modern analogue to “papers”. The wide sweep of surveillance as currently conducted seems to blatantly violate the requirement that no warrant be issued without a specific description of the people, places, and things involved. There is nothing specific about monitoring all phone calls.

The Constitution provides strong protections on privacy that are in this case being clearly disregarded in the name of national security. Combine it with the recent revelations of IRS targeting of conservative groups, and Justice Department intimidation of journalists, and a picture emerges of a gartantuan bureaucracy in which the systems, processes, and perceived mandates of government overwhelm by its very nature the interests of the individual.

Sign me up for the class-action lawsuit.

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