NSA Spying: Think Twice Before Dismissing Fourth Amendment Privacy

I want to return to the idea of selective concern for our constitutional rights that I hit on in an earlier post. And I’m going to keep writing about the NSA spying on Americans even if most have already dismissed the story because they assumed it was going on all along.

Take a look at gun violence, with tens of thousands of Americans killed each year. We are talking about a weapon that also happens to be a constitutionally protected material possession, at least according to the Supreme Court. The number of Americans killed by guns in recent years hovers around 30,000.

Now take a look at terrorism. There are entire years that go by without one American death due to terrorism. But while the Second Amendment is judged sacrosanct, a testament for a free society, other amendments are not lauded with such enthusiasm and dogmatic certainty. Illegal search and seizure? Well, if it will protect me from the evil terrorists then I’m all for tearing down constitutional amendments, as long as it’s not the one about guns.

Surveillance - photo by lisainglasses

For terrorism, there’s no change we could make in our daily lives that would offer us greater protection, so we offload that responsibility to government. For gun crime, while there are random acts of gun violence, most deaths by gun are not random. So while scary, because it’s usually not random, most people believe gun violence will not visit their lives. Most people believe gun violence is something that happens to someone else. Most people believe gun violence is a problem tucked away in various urban locations. And because we have the right to own a gun, protected by the Second Amendment, there’s nothing we can do about it anyway. But why don’t we say that about the Fourth Amendment? Why is it on the chopping block? So we can combat terrorism? Really? — You are more likely to be struck by lightning or drown in your bathtub than die in a terrorist attack. And you are definitely more likely to be killed by a constitutionally protected gun owner than by a terrorist with a bomb.

Some argue that we already give up our privacy in a digitally connected world, but I’m left unfulfilled with this line of thinking. There are liberals and Democrats who argue NSA surveillance of our phone records and internet traffic is the price we pay in a modern and technology driven society. So, with no probable cause, it’s fine for the state to spy on citizens? I’m not saying I like private businesses having access to my personal info, but private businesses don’t have the power that the state does. Their primary concern is making money and earning customer loyalty. They can certainly use personal information for bad purposes, but it’s our choice to give up that information. I can choose which companies I’m willing to share my personal information with.

But I don’t remember my government asking for my permission. I don’t care if I’m not being targeted, this information is archived, ready to be accessed at a later date, for a purpose yet determined. How can anybody say they will never be the target of a government inquiry? It doesn’t matter if you are a law-bidding citizen. What if someone in a position of power decides they just don’t like you? What web might they try to spin with the information they have? Maybe you didn’t do anything illegal, yet, but maybe they can massage the data to make it look like you did. Do I think there is a high probability of this? Maybe not. But how do you know a future administration will be trustworthy? How do you know the current administration is?

We might want to think twice before we so easily dismiss our privacy and the Fourth Amendment.

photo by lisainglasses

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#fourth amendment#guns#NSA#phone records#privacy#second amendment#spying#surveillance#terrorism#violence

  • disqus_H9Irk9GcRJ

    Without the 2nd amendment, how do you plan to defend yourself when your precious goobermen has stripped you of all your other rights?

    With hugs and tolerance? Or will you happily walk into a concentration camp and accept whatever fate they decide for you.

    • Your reply illustrates exactly what I mean when I say the Second Amendment is judged sacrosanct. In this article, I never suggested doing away with the Second Amendment or banning gun ownership, but clearly that was your takeaway. In fact, I used the consecrated and hallowed Second Amendment to demonstrate how little we care about the Fourth Amendment. But in your case I must have circumnavigated cognition. And while I do think there are sensible things that could be done with regard to gun control, that’s another discussion entirely. I have plenty of those articles if you care to read them. This is not one of them.

      • disqus_H9Irk9GcRJ

        Before anything, even though I stand by my message, I never expected a response so I apologize for coming off like a douche.

        I understand that you’re article was meant to compare the two rights and explain how we value each differently. I just didn’t like the way you structured your argument to make it seem like we could/should do something about more gun control.

        Some Gun Control talk, but you can ignore this since it is off topic.

        I understand you care about gun violence as everyone should, but to take away guns from law abiding citizens is the wrong way to go about it, which is the only thing Gun Control accomplishes because only law abiding citizens obey the law.

        The last thing I’ll say about Gun Control is that it is the first step towards confiscation/ban and that history shows that millions have died because of political dissent after guns were confiscated

        In regards to your article, I agree we should value and protect every right with the same vigilance that we (or Conservatives) protect the 2nd amendment.

        I should expand a bit on my OP that I think both Libs/Cons need to understand: if people allow goobermen to infringe on any amendment, and they willing partake or encourage that infringement as many on the left do with the 2nd amendment, then it’s no surprise we’re in this mess. Conservatives who were for the P@tri0t Act are to be held to the same criticism.

        Anyway, I’m glad more Progressives/Liberals are awake that these and any other infringements matter to We The People, regardless of our political ideology or party affiliation. If we don’t stand together on this issue and on every violation of the Constitution, we will all lose.

        FWIW, I don’t even own a gun and I’ve even been robbed at gun point with the gun pointed right at my eye, but I understand the value of it because my parents and grandparents came from Cuba where guns were banned right before Castro revealed his true colors. America is starting to look a lot like Cuba and it is something that frightens me.

        • There’s no question if I bring up guns or the second amendment I will do so from my perspective. So you weren’t completely wrong to assume that I would advocate for more gun control. I have yet to hear a convincing argument for why someone needs extended magazines or assault rifles.”Sport” is not convincing and you don’t need those things for defense. And the argument that we shouldn’t have laws because only law abiding people would obey them is, I’m sorry, stupid. Apply that to anything else (other than guns) for which we have laws and you will see how stupid it is. On top of that, we already have gun control laws (although very weak in most states). To use your logic, we shouldn’t have the gun control laws we have now.

          Since we are clearly mostly talking about guns and the second amendment, even with the rest of your comment, I will say this: The second amendment is the only right in the bill of rights that is not a civil right but instead a material right. The right to own a firearm is not a civil right. Certainly you are free to make your case that you believe owning a firearm is necessary to defend civil rights, but the right to own a firearm itself is not a civil right. It would be like saying if there was an amendment that guaranteed your right to own a TV, and then people would claim owning a TV is a civil right. Civil rights are rights related to your person, not your possessions. Possessions would be property rights. So the second amendment is exclusively about property rights, even if you think that particular piece of property could be used to defend personal rights. The fourth amendment, while about personal rights, is also about property rights, but not exclusively. I know this sounds like a distinction not worth making, but I elevate actual civil rights above material rights. We live in a country that has moved beyond the need to use a firearm to guarantee our civil rights. I’m not naive to think we live in a perfect world without evil, but in America we no longer use guns and violence in defense of personal liberty like we might have during the Revolution.

          And while I think the security side of the U.S. government needs to scale down, this country is still a representative democracy. It may be a democracy in need of repair, but we are far from a totalitarian regime.

      • Guest

        Also, I hope in your future articles or discussions that you mention why these violations are important: political dissent.

        B O has shifted from the war on T*rror to the war on people criticizing the goobermen. The IR$ scandal has shown that they are targeting political dissent. I don’t have proof obviously, but if you see what is happening (gun control, arresting Mar!nes who think this country is headed in the wrong direction, spying on its own citizens, targeting T.Party who warn people about big goobermen + economic collapse + loss of sovereignty to the UN, etc), they are preparing for something big.

        The DEE H ESS is armed to the teeth and there are empty FEM@ camps everywhere.

        The ND@@ labels Amer!ca a battlefield and allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens.

        They will come for us first, but the minute you guys on the left start criticizing, they will come for you next.

        • Way too much conspiracy nonsense to even bother arguing with you.