Saturday, April 29, 2006

Liberty for Security

I've never committed murder. Yet I wouldn't allow the police to search my car for a dead body without a warrant. I've never embezzled funds, yet I wouldn't allow federal agents to check my bank records without a warrant. I've never been a drug user or a drug dealer, but I wouldn't let the DEA enter my house looking for drug paraphernalia unless they had a warrant sworn to based upon probable cause.

Yet I've been asked to trust the President and the government to decide which American Persons should have their phone lines tapped based on little more than a hunch and nothing like a warrant to grant permission for that invasion of privacy. Conceptually, I assume the idea is that if I've done nothing wrong, I have nothing to worry about, and these searches are geared to prevent crimes from happening. Random house searches based on hunches could catch a lot of drugs and video surveillance could catch a lot of batterers, but it invades our persons, our privacy, and ourselves. We built this nation on the premise that as free people, we would be free from heavy government interference, yet that interference is what we've been asked to accept in the name of security.

I read at Donklephant (link here) that the FBI sought information on 3501 U.S. persons last year, which is considerably lower than what many had feared. Sean Aqui from Donklephant was reporting on this article. I suppose that's good news, yet I wonder if this is less good news like "you don't have cancer" and more "good" news like "we THOUGHT you had four types of cancer, but you only have 2."

Maybe the government is looking at this like fishing. You keep casting and get one or two bites, and when you do, you're happy. I think it's more akin to fishing with dynamite. You hit a whole lot of fish, only keep the ones you want, and let the rest rot. It's more efficient, but, it's just not right.


Juliabohemian said...

I guess I don't get it. I have nothing to hide so I really don't care about my phone being tapped. I can picture a couple of middle aged guys in expensive suits, huddled in an unmarked van, listening to conversations between me and my Mother about how my kids are trying to kill each other over a toy.

Steve said...

For a lot of people, it's the principle of the thing. The Fourt Amendment grants us the right to be free from searches without warrants, yet the President, through FISA and other acts has determined that the Fourth Amendment doesn't apply when we're searching people's telephone lines so long as we have a good reason.

Another concept is the slippery slope argument. One could expand that very same theory and say that so long as they're not causing a disturbance, we should be forced to quarter soldiers in our homes as they would be better able to determine whether or not you're a terrorist or have ties to terrorism, or whatever.

There's also the easy enough argument. If those who want to do the wiretapping are only doing it to those they suspect have ties to terrorism and they have a reasonable belief in that, then, in theory, it's a very simple procedure to get the warrant to listen in on their conversations, and sacrificing liberty for the sake of expediency is something that should scare a lot of people.

We've spent much of the past 150 years expanding the rights and liberties of American people, and many don't want to see the opposite start, and that's why they oppose warrantless wiretaps.

Weary Hag said...

Excellent post, Steve.
I see your point, and I see Julia's as well - I used to feel very much like she does on this topic, however ... the more I read and learn about this sort of privacy invasion - the scarier and scarier it is. The thing is, what's next? First phone tapping, then what?

It's a very troubling isssue.