Search and Seizure

” 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….” So says the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Edward Snowden, formerly of the CIA and the National Security Agency and now hiding out in Hong Kong while looking for asylum somewhere in the world, has brought into question how secure we are in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Maybe the fourth amendment doesn’t mean that much anymore.

Snowden, now the famous ” leaker” and whistleblower, has let the world know that the U.S.government has been legally requiring phone companies and Internet outfits to hand over records and other data as a means of tracking potentially harmful terrorist attacks on the homeland. Not surprisingly, Snowden has caused Washington to enter into a state of extreme conundrum as it deals with the proper balance between national security and privacy.

And so questions fill the air – Is Snowden a protector of privacy and democracy, a true hero, or is he a publicity hound and traitor who has weakened our security system? Are we now entering Orwell’s 1984 where the government monitors our movements with cameras and phone conversations all in the name of some grand strategy? Has the government gone over the line as it uses its resources – the IRS, the Justice Department and now the NSA – to expand its power and weaken our democracy?

These questions are vitally important as we live through the age of terror and a polarized political system, and the answers to these questions, if they are answered, are critical for defining what kind of democracy we are and will become in the future.

But it is important to remember that getting all aflutter about the NSA and its spying regimen is really nothing new in this country. If anyone still thinks that they have their privacy, think again as your bank, your credit card company, your mortgage lender, your Facebook account and all your other email and social media transmissions have invaded your privacy for years. The government is just adding another nail in the coffin of personal privacy, and in this case supposedly to protect us from the bad guys.

If you want to be private, maybe stop talking on your cell phone on the subway and letting all those next to you listen into your conversation.


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