I wish I could say I was shocked at the reports the NSA is secretly spying on the private phone calls of millions of Verizon customers. However, this is a predictable result of a government that continues to erode our liberties while promising some glimmering hope of security.
The Fourth Amendment is clear; it says we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects, and that all warrants must have probable cause.
I opposed and continue to oppose the Patriot Act because I believe it throws the Fourth Amendment right out the window. It is certainly not patriotic to support warrantless wiretaps, blanket ‘metadata’ collection, and spying on innocent American citizens.
Unfortunately, what is worse than the reports, is knowing that politicians of both parties will continue to defend this practice as necessary to supposedly keep us ‘safe’. We do not have to sacrifice our liberties for security. At times like this, the question must be asked, ‘if we are willing to change our way of life and our very definition of freedom while tolerating the invasive searches at our airports and now of our phone calls, have the terrorists already won?
New legislation filed in Texas by Republican Representative Lance Gooden proposes the toughest laws against the use of indiscriminate drone surveillance of the American people, restricting drone use only within 25-miles of the Texas/Mexico border, or with proper search and arrest warrants.
All other uses from individuals, law enforcement or federal authorities would be prohibited in the state.
“These drones are going to get so cheap that soon you’ll be able to buy your own drone at Best Buy,” Gooden said. “You could park it a foot above the ground in your neighbor’s back yard and film into their house. If someone wanted to film your children out playing by the pool and put that video on the Internet, as creepy as that sounds.“
Gooden said it is important to address the issue now before drone lobbies begin surfacing to push legislation in support of domestic spying.
Texas is not the only state battling the issue of drones. Seattle’s mayor ordered its police department to stop its plan to use drones after relentless complaints from concerned citizens over privacy.
A similar bill in Florida would ban the use of drones except in cases of “terrorism”, missing children and court-ordered warrants.
Although Illinois has some of the toughest laws against monitoring the police, TSA and other authority figures, the Supreme Court this week struck down an eavesdropping law that allowed for the imprisonment of up to 15 years for the “crime” of videotaping police while on duty. The Supreme Court ruled the law violates the right to free speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit against the law in 2010 in response to legal trouble regarding the group’s video recording of officers while on duty. The high court left in place a lower court’s decision that the anti-eavesdropping law in Illinois violates the Constitution. The law had been in place in the state for 50 years.
Outrageously, Illinois prosecutors pleaded with the Supremes that the lower court’s decision provides “a novel and unprecedented First Amendment protection to ubiquitous recording devices”. First amendment protection is unprecedented? Who knew. Apparently, state prosecutors believe that the protection of first amendment rights of the American people is somehow strange.
Civil libertarians and lovers of freedom and liberty, of course, believe the monitoring of enforcement officers in this country is not only a protected constitutional right (apparently, the court agrees), but also a critical monitoring tactic to ensure against the abuse of powers given to police and government. Americans should, and do, have every right and obligation to “watch the watchers”.
After victory, the ACLU said of the incident, “Empowering individuals and organizations in this fashion will ensure additional transparency and oversight of public officials across the state.”
The case now goes to an Illinois district court in Chicago where the ACLU will ask a judge to make the temporary injunction of the enforcement of the law permanent.
This comes just months after a similar case in the District of Columbia, where a bystander to a traffic stop on a public street in our nation’s capital was detained and questioned for 30-minutes after snapping pictures of the incident. The ACLU filed suit on behalf of the man, and the court ruled “a bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and record members in the public discharge of their duties.” Videotaping officers while on duty is perfectly legal and constitutional provided the photographer is not interfering with enforcement officers.
In yet another rampant example of federal hatred of the Constitution and the basic right to privacy, a re-written bill by Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy would give a slew of government agencies (22 to be exact) virtually unrestricted access to emails, Facebook posts and Twitter messages of the American people.
According to a report by CNET, Leahy’s original version of the bill actually protected Americans from warrantless searches of personal information. After complaints from law enforcement and government entities arguing that obtaining warrants would have an “adverse impact” on investigations, the senator re-wrote the bill and added provisions that destroy personal privacy and allows government agencies access to information without warrants or oversight.
The bill would give the Federal Bureau of Investigation complete access to American’s personal information through their Internet Service Provider without notification of the account holder – or even a judge. The bill essentially eliminates privacy and personal security and recklessly gives unrestrained access to federal agencies – a power that is ripe for abuse.
Under the bill, agencies like the Federal Reserve, OSHA, the Federal Trade Commission and the National Labor Relations Board would gain easy access to American’s information. It is puzzling why any of these organizations need access to personal information of the American people, especially without basic due process of obtaining a warrant.
A vote on the bill is scheduled for next week. However, after public outcry over the blatant and transparent destruction of the privacy of all Americans, Leahy backed off of his support of his own bill, a damage control move by the senator in an attempt to save any shred of credibility he may still have with the American people.
Leahy’s attempt at damage control is meaningless, however. The bill remains scheduled for a vote next week. American’s privacy remains at stake, and the career Vermont politician is doing his best to skirt the line between getting the bill passed in the Senate and dodging responsibility for the continued destruction of privacy in the United States.
After such a public outcry, it is unclear how many in the Senate are in support of this bill, although one would hope a bill this transparently destructive to the privacy of all Americans would garner very little support – with or without negative publicity.