Friday, May 12, 2006

Why we should care what the NSA does...

I was appalled to learn that 65% of Americans do not oppose the NSA wiretap program. I have head all of these excuses before. "They are only looking for terrorists, not me." "I won't ever commit a crime." "We need to do it to keep ourselves safe." Let's be realistic ladies and gentlemen, the purpose of the Bill of Rights exists to prevent development of a tyrannical American Government. Protecting against unreasonable search and seizure (the Fourth Amendment) is a right tied to the traditions of English speaking peoples, and has existed in some form as part of basic Constitutional documents for over 200 years. Permitting the NSA wiretapping program eviscerates this right from the Constitution in a meaningful sense. As the law stands now, if someone is accused of a crime, when taken to trial, the government can present evidence from these phone taps against them. If these taps are considered legal, when the government hears something they don't like and can be construed as criminal, they can file charges. This is an invasion of rights, even if it's as simple as knowing who, where, and when a person is calling. I am glad to see that this program has ruffled some Congressional feathers. It needs to. This is the President making a bold grab for power in clear violation of the Constitution, and his duty to uphold the social contract. When we give up one right, it's easier to take away another. No matter how great the threat to national security, we give up the basic concepts upon which this nation was founded by permitting this kind of injustice to continue. This would be like taking away the right to vote. The concept appalls us because it strikes at the heart of democracy. Liberty is the heart of our Constitutional system. It was the reason for people to fight against the English oppression in the first place.

It's also not a surprise that the Government has yet to really investigate what is going on. First, the NSA won't grant the Department of Justice clearance to investigate the program. This isn't a surprise because the Department of Justice is part of the Executive branch, and the President wants to continue to violate your privacy by looking into who, when, and where you call. I find it very interesting that the President has yet to produce evidence that this program has prevented a terrorist attack. Second, it looks like what the telecommunications companies did violates several existing federal laws. However, the likelihood that they will be prosecuted is slim because the agency who would prosecute them is the Department of Justice. It's interesting that this is the same agency controlled by the President, who won't investigate the NSA's program because the President supports it. Third, don't look to your phone company, if it's AT&T, Bell South, or Verizon, because, frankly, they don't care and won't help. So, kudos to Qwest, T-Mobile , and Verizon Wireless for not releasing their caller's information.

So, American's should care about the NSA program because they should not give up their freedom so easily, especially when so many American's have died in its defense. Letting the government take away our freedom, no matter how slight the infringement, destroys the purpose of that freedom, and strips citizens of other rights as a result. In addition, as citizens we must hold the President to a hire standard, especially when the President takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. The President, like every other branch of government, must adhere to the rules laid out in the Constitution, or the document and democratic principles mean nothing and we the citizens are left with a tyrannical government that can do whatever it wants. Far more that 65% of Americans should be opposed to this kind of government action because of the negative effects it could have on our freedom. Today the NSA domestic spying program, tomorrow big brother.

BIG UPDATE: More from yesterday's post, Glenn Greenwald has an interesting take at Unclaimed Territory.

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