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Monday, November 12, 2007

Government Invasion Of Privacy - What Is Freedom? Part V

This post is based on the comments of Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence which come from a FoxNews Story HERE. This issue has the most serious implications of any discussion that we are having today, and I am concerned that conservatives have neglected to evaluate the consequences sufficiently. Before you go further, there will be adult topics discussed. If you are easily offended, you may want to turn back.

Prior to 9/11, our “right to privacy” debate was centered on pornography and sexual preference. No one was really concerned about anyone’s sexual preferences or if you liked to watch goats have sex on the internet. The 4th Amendment protections in our Constitution are there to protect individual liberties, because the government’s power and ability to intrude on that liberty is stronger than the individual’s ability to repel government.

Beginning in about the 1980s, technology has allowed us to use satellite cameras to count the dimples on a golf ball from 100 miles in space. We can transmit wireless signals around the world. We build a 10 ton aircraft that is virtually invisible to radar. We can spy on someone from within their own home with a camera the size of a pencil eraser. We can comb a katrillion webpages in mere seconds for a single word. Technology has allowed us to copy phone calls and emails in the billions, and thresh them through s supercomputer to find a single reference that might mean an impending attack that will kill thousands of Americans.

We are in a precarious position. The rock is the cumulative threats to our security. The hard place is the freedom that we enjoy. The bedrock of our Constitution is the individual right to privacy. Privacy that allows me to post on my blog about the President’s lack of action on immigration. Privacy that allows me to own weapons in my home to protect my family. Privacy that allows me to speak with my attorney without the government being a party to such discussions. Privacy that prevents government troops from appropriating my home for quarters.

Yet without some ability on the part of government to look into the lives of people, we run the risk of losing those privacies when some lunatic detonates a dirty bomb at the Mall of America or the SEC championship game. What do we do about this conundrum?

I am firmly behind our government using technology to root out those among us who do not share my views on the greatness of America. We need a process by which the intelligence and law enforcement agencies can take immediate action to find information so that they may act quickly. There are occasions where there is no time to obtain a warrant through the normal criminal processes.

Yet the statements of Kerr make me extremely uncomfortable. From FoxNews “Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information.”

Privacy should still mean anonymity. Look, I personally don’t care if the government listens to my phone calls about how my son broke something (again) in my house. I don’t care if they hear my wife talking about my daughter’s boyfriend and if they are having sex. I don’t care if they read my emails about my son’s scout den and how much popcorn we sold as a fundraiser. They can intercept anything from my house at anytime, as long as they promise to forward to me the emails my two teen daughters send to friends and boyfriends.

We can’t allow the government to run rampant through our lives. I don’t believe that we have a McCarthyistic governmet intent on prosecuting anyone who doesn’t agree with the government. I do believe that while the people at the office of National Intelligence have all the best intentions, they have no business reading all of my emails and listening to my phone calls. I used to work for Homeland Security, and I know that these people do yeoman’s work in a very harsh environment and accomplish miraculous tasks. I do not know a single person from my time there who cared about anything except protecting you and me.

Realistically I know that no one listens to my calls. Supercomputers search through them to find information that will connect with other intelligence to piece together a puzzle. However, when a government employee says that we just have to get used to the government being a voyeur of everything about out lives, I am concerned.

The phone companies shouldn’t be penalized for being civic minded following 9/11 and allowing government to access records. We should grant them immunity from then until now. But it has to stop. It has been more than six years and that is enough time to put together a reasonable process for reviewing things that need reviewed.

Freedom is being able to go to bed at night with the knowledge that when I wake up, the Constitution will still be in place.

24 Posts From Readers:

rockync said...

"There are occasions where there is no time to obtain a warrant through the normal criminal processes."
I don't agree with this since warrants can be obtained very quickly, especially in an emergancy situation.
"Look, I personally don’t care if the government listens to my phone calls about how my son broke something..."
I know what you're saying is you don't care because you have nothing to hide. I also have nothing to hide, but I do care if the government is scanning my emails or phone calls, etc.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely. That alone should be enough to spur us into action against domestic government spying without warrant.
The phone company issue is an entirely different matter since they were complying with a government agency demand. Their legal councel should have called bulls**t on it, but given the whole "terrorists amongst us" panic, I can understand why they complied.

Robert (Conservative Commentary) said...

Rocky, I don't think I made my stance definitive enough. I want some of this to stop. not the evidence or intel collecting, but the free reign to do so without oversight. I think that in the immediate frame of time after 9/11 exceptions were present and the lines were blurry. But now we should be in a position where we don't need arbitrary records searches and informal processes.

When I made that statement about search warrants, I meant that sometimes these investigations don't rise to the level of "probable cause" as is required for a criminal investigation. That is why we have the FISA court and wiretap courts, so that we can use these tools to build cases but more so to protect against these new threats.

I am strongly against the mentality that we have to say goodbye to privacy. Those type of statements by government officials should give us cause to rise up and take a serious look at what the government is doing.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Well written my friend. This debate is a mute point on the part of those who are against thecno surveillance when it comes to protecting the country.

I feel like you when it comes to that protection and possible gathering info that could prevent another attack. But when one looks at the Conatitutionality of the situation I believe that the pre-amble superceeds the argument with the 4th amendment.

"Insure Domestic tranquility,..provide for the common defense...scure the bessings of liberty, " all require the government to do what is necessary to protect the nation from invaders whether from another nation or terrists.

Additionally the FISA argument is also wring. When you read FISA it describes warrentless taps for anyone who is NOT a United States person. But if a United States person is conversing with a foreign agent or terrorist then they are eligibal for warrentless taps for up to 12 months by AG authorization.

Why this particular clause in FISA is always over looked is beyond me!

Robert (Conservative Commentary) said...

Ken, I have found our first disagreement, but it may be nothing more than that we are talking about different sides of a coin.

I have a problem with ANY law that gives arbitray power to wiretap anyone for that length of time. This really is my point. We need to wiretap people and we need to surveill people and we need to know what is going on across this nation.

Trust me, as a former law enforcement officer and having worked for DHS in a security caapacity, I want our people to have their hands untied to pry where they need to pry.

At the same time the dog has to be kept on a leash. For a top government official to tell us that
our privacy is gone and we should become accustomed to big brother knowing about everything but "trust us to keep your information secret" is a joke. The CIA can't even keep their own secrest, much less guarantee the lily white intentions of politicians.

Maybe FISA is the first step for change. I don't care if you start a wiretap, for example, on a non-US citizen anywhere at any time. I do care if you are wiretapping citizens. Go ahead and do the wiretap under FISA, but we should make it required to bring a warrant application within 30 days, not 12 months.

You know I am not a conspiracy nut nor do I see black helicopters hovering over my home. I do think that a government who tells it's citizens to say goodbye to privacy needs some serious reform.

rockync said...

Given that clarification, Robert, I'd say we are on the same page. I do see a need for local and federal law enforcement to be given enough room to do their jobs which is essentially to keep our citizens safe. Always, when power is given, there must also be accountablility for how they use that power.

Donald Douglas said...

"I am firmly behind our government using technology to root out those among us who do not share my views on the greatness of America. We need a process by which the intelligence and law enforcement agencies can take immediate action to find information so that they may act quickly."

Well said. After listening to the Democrats these past weeks, one might think Mukasey was a terrorist himself for his views on waterboarding, a technique, like electronic surveillance, ought to be used when in the national interest.

Have a great holiday!

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Robert, just got back to post again. You are right we are talking about two sides of the same coin. While I believe that surveilence is necessary for security it should NOT be without constraints.

There are already laws in effect that protect the common John Q citizen from warrentless taps. Where John Q loses that protection is IF he is conversing with a foreign agent or terrorist then he is on the hot list and suspect.

Even the NSA, CIA and the FBI have told time and again that internal proceedures and protection make if impossible to tap into the private conversations of John Q public. Yet those who argue this surveilance always neglect to mention this fact.

The process works to protect citizens and still get the info necessary to prevent the enemy from hitting the US again. It has been extremely successful and that is what counts.

If John Q public had been violated as has been accused , then why have there not been any court cases by the public to prove the point? Even the ACLU has not had any successful cases on this point because the evidence that ordinary citizens are being, "watched, " is not there because it is not happening.

Robert (Conservative Commentary) said...

Ken, I am behind your position 100%. There have been no documented cases where someone has been denied their rights because of a mistaken or improper monitoring or interception of communication. We msut do these things.

I am simply disturbed to think that there are top government officials who are looking down the road and deciding that we should say goodbye to privacy.

The Liberal Lie The Conservative Truth said...

Robert THAT is why we must NOT elect Democrats!!!!!!!

heidianne jackson said...

i'm going to pull out a thread here, robert: "I don’t believe that we have a McCarthyistic governmet intent on prosecuting anyone who doesn’t agree with the government."

mc carthy wasn't the monster you think/have been told. he's one of my heroes.

Anonymous said...

wtf is wrong wit u, do u want the government readin a email sayin how much ur son is selling weed for, dude privacy is ur own business, there shouldn't be any reason that u can't talk to ur wife about financial difficulties while she is at work, that is invasion, ur jus fallowing them blindly, this is exactly what they want, to move freely without question, but when they can do that, then u can't move freely, ur freedom of expression is robed of u, ur so fuckin stupid, i hope u get cuaght and get killed.

Anonymous said...

i need my space i don't need some stuffed shirt asshole readin and watchin everything i do, i need a break, lik in goerge orwells book 1894 certain words were abolished, and even saying them was a crime, and thinkin a bad thought of big brother would get u cuaght, u fallow the government and the same fuckin thing wit happen u turd stick, ur basiclly bendin over and lettin the government fuck u in the ass and u take it, privacy is freedom, and soliatry, if we go wit u, then even drawing somethin bad could get u arrested, but is that no privacy or freedom, expression is abolished and torn apart, u want that? invasion of privacy leads to the lose of deversity, cause certain thoughts would be illigal, every one would live in a cubic, wear the same clothes and move in a perfect line, the world would be grey, think of what could happen if we go ur way before u fuckin blog, or u could jus take the presidental dick up ur ass

Anonymous said...

i agree in the respect that i have nothing to hide however i do think people have a right to thier own space. i find it amusing to imagine some-one wasting thier time listening to my phone calls because they're not going to learn anything intresting. i'm just an average person with everyday worries so wiretaps and such don't bother me what does is that they said we should kiss goodbye to our privacy. we shouldn't feel like we are constantly being spied upon. tight reins need to be put on the overment dictating how much of our privacy they are allowed to strip away from us.

Anonymous said...

While anonymous's English is horrid, I have to agree with him somewhat. We allow this kind of behavior and violation of our rights, then when do we draw the line and say this is it? As that saying goes: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. You give some one an inch and they want a mile. Personally I think this kind of invasion is exactly what terrorists want, and we have been caving into it since 9/11. When they destroy our rights and democracy, they've won.

So the question is... When do people start opening their eyes to these invasions, and realize that the problem isn't that we are conspiracy nuts, the problem is with everything becoming more reliant on the internet, we are creating our own snare. That these small government victories lead to bigger ones later, till we are left with no privacy online at all.

This is not acceptable, and it drives me crazy when people say, 'Well what are you going to do about it?' Well you fucking moron, I am going to speak out, and cry injustice, and fight it. That is the American way. Our forefathers didn't bleed for our country so that we could spit on the rights they fought so hard to maintain. Our soldiers fight everyday for our rights, and die for this country, to preserve our freedoms. Shame on everyone who disgraces these sacrifices, and allows our government to take these freedoms and rights from us. We the People...

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