Saturday, June 8, 2013

Glass Houses

The U.S. government is spying on your phone calls and e-mails. All of them. This shocking revelation was made public by the U.K. newspaper The Guardian this week, but anyone who’s read my book, Issues In Internet Law: Society, Technology, and the Law, already knew that.

If you haven’t bought my book yet, this is one reason you should. Smart people get ahead of the curve. They learn what’s going on before everyone else learns about it from the newscasts.

There’s a tension between the individual’s right to privacy and the government’s need for information to ensure safety. But let’s be real. There’s no such thing as total safety. If heavily guarded presidents and popes can be shot, no one is truly “safe”. Since 9-11, two administrations, with the complicity of the media, have worked to convince Americans they must sacrifice their civil liberties in exchange for safety. That’s not the American way. This country, unlike any before it, was built on the concept of individual civil liberties. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” He didn't become one of America’s great patriots by saying, “Take my liberties, just keep me safe.”

America saved Europe, turning the tide of WWII, defeating the Axis forces. We did it without taking our shoes off or having high-tech strip searches before boarding airplanes. Terrorist win when they instill terror in our hearts. In WWII, we beat the bad guys because, as FDR told us, we had nothing to fear but fear itself. The same holds true today.

We won’t win the War on Terror by turning America into a police state reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984. We don’t need Big Brother spying on our phone calls, e-mails, and Web browsing. We can only win by preserving and exercising, not eviscerating, the civil liberties drafted by the Founding Fathers and consecrated with the blood of generations of Americans fighting at home and abroad for those freedoms that embody our American values. Thomas Jefferson never envisioned a secret FISA court or that the federal government would be able to disregard the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against warrantless searches with impunity.

To those who argue the innocent among us should have nothing to hide, and therefore not mind exposing their thoughts and words to the prying eyes of snooping government bureaucrats, I suggest they first replace the walls of their homes with eight-foot panes of glass now, before the government mandates it. There’s a reason we choose not to live in glass houses, and that is, we value our privacy. So much so, the Founders declared all Americans had the right to be secure in one’s home and one’s person. The Fourth Amendment states: “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.” Unfortunately, the Obama and Bush administrations have confused the Fourth Amendment with the lyrics of a pop song by a group ironically named “The Police” (as in Police State):

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I'll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
...  I'll be watching you

* “Every Breath She Takes” lyrics copyrighted by their respective owners, used here for educational purposes only.


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