Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Scroll Editorial

The following is an editorial that I wrote for Scroll.
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If you are deluded enough to believe the government can be trusted with your privacy then you are the same type of person who believes the government should be given more money, that government is a better parent than you are and that, overall, government does a better job at running your life than you do.

USA Today revealed a story on Thursday, May 11, 2006 that claimed the National Security Agency had been building a database of phone call records made by tens of millions of Americans since as early as September 2001. Sources, quoted by USA Today, said, “It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” and its goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation’s borders, this person added. (Refer to front page for more info.)

Kent Marlor, of the political science department said, “It ([NSA] spying on Americans) is repugnant to the Constitution. The events of 9/11 don’t justify the actions of the NSA one whit. It doesn’t even really surprise me and I don’t agree with it. We have these amendments in the Constitution to protect us from government.”

According to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, “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.”

Not to mention that the 1974 Foreign Intelligence Surveillence Act requires that there be court authorization for just this type of thing. As far as we know, in this instance, there has been no court approval, and there have been no warrants issued.

This NSA program violates American principle. Have you ever had someone read your journal? Have you ever had someone ea vesdrop on an intimate conversation? Privacy wouldn’t matter if everyone held respect for each other, but that’s not reality. Being able to reserve thoughts and actions to oneself is inherent in the American doctrine and spirit.

Many argue, “If you have nothing to be guilty of then you should have nothing to hide.” That is naive and insulting. It is nobody’s business how much money you make, who you voted for or who you worship. And it’s nobody’s business who you call on the phone. Do any of these activities warrant guilt? No, of course not. They are guarded and personal. They are private.

According to the Constitution there must be “probable cause” in order to do a search or seizure of someone’s property. Is the White House trying to tell us they have probable cause to believe “tens of millions” of Americans are somehow linked to terrorist groups?

Even more insulting to Americans is a quote by Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who said, “To suggest that there’s some sort of cover-up is not correct, and the motivation of those who would suggest otherwise is obvious. We need to be conscious of what’s at stake: the security and safety of the American people. That should not fall prey to petty, partisan politics. One of the reasons the administration doesn’t tell more members of Congress about such programs is because Congress leaks.”

Is Sen. Cornyn suggesting that Congress is not trustworthy? If the White House and the NSA are not accountable to Congress or the courts, then why do we bother having a system that checks and balances each other? Should we just throw the Bill of Rights out the window?

Our most basic rights are slowly being undermined under a subtle, crafty and fear-mongering message of security.

Is security important? Yes, but at what expense? The essence of humanity? If you believe security is more important than preserving the divine laws of nature then you should take a closer look at the former Soviet Union. During that time Russians, in the name of “security,” had no privacy, government had all power and if there was any accusation made toward you about loyalty, you could be carried off in the middle of the night to prison.

If the security of Americans is under such great danger that it warrants wiretapping and phone call collection, then perhaps it would be quicker if we would just resurrect Sen. Joseph McCarthy and ask him to haul people in for questioning.

This should be alarming to all Americans regardless of political party. President Bush said, “The government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval.” And, he said, “The privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.”

Don’t take his word for it, don’t take the government’s word for it, don’t take your grandmother’s word for it.

Readers should write in to their representatives at all levels and urge them to hold investigations and hearings to be sure the rights of Americans are being protected.

We should commend civil servants like the Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who called for more congressional oversight to monitor the NSA program; and said he would call the phone companies that handed over the phone records to appear before a panel “to find out exactly what is going on.”

It is every loyal citizen’s responsibility to be skeptical of government and every citizen should request the government to show how the collection of private phone records is not an infringement on privacy.

2 comments:

Chaucer Arafat said...

Pete.. . . . .. ...

Quote: "Is security important? Yes, but at what expense? The essence of humanity?"

The essence of my humanity is rarely, if ever, relayed over the phone. The phone is generally reserved for ordering pizza, which some argue is the very essence of humanity--but I am not going to get into that age-old debate.

Quote: "If you believe security is more important than preserving the divine laws of nature..." I had no idea that the NSA wiretapping was a threat to the 'divine laws of nature'. Which do you think will go first, gravity or electromagnetism?

OK, OK--all hijinks aside. while I don't agree with warrantless surveillance, I fear that it might be justified in court; all depending on semantics and definition of 'probable cause'. The trouble for them is making it a collective 'probable cause' instead of 'probable cause' that targets certain individuals.

I think the idea of randomly hauling people to the gulag is non-sequitor in this debate. I have at least that much faith in our court system. But I do believe you are right about the idea of "big brother" having to start somewhere. What follows after wiretapping? It could prove a slippery-slope unless firm action is taken against such abuse. I am interested in seeing the class-action lawsuit against my wireless provider. There is nothing like a $1,000 check coming my way, all because someone in Washington DC, at some point, overheard my candid opinion about pistachios, Oprah Winfrey (ridiculous), and the musical atrocities of Menudo.

Cheers

Peter Nguyen said...

Chaucer,

I've missed you so much!