An older article wrote years ago that I published here since I believe the concept is still relevant.
While this post isn’t business or management related, I’d like to use the forum to express my thoughts on the issue. I will start with the 4th amendment which reads:
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 probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
The 4th amendment written above seems pretty clear to me. It’s amazing how it is so unclear to many hawks on the political right and some big government liberals on the left. I think the NSA having access to the metadata from every phone call, email, and text message an innocent American sends spits in the face of the 4th amendment. One call, email, or text on its own isn’t enough to learn much about a person. With 5 years of metadata on a person you could easily establish where they go, and who they talk to, as well as their political and religious affiliations. The 4th amendment clearly invalidates data-mining innocent people en mass. Surveillance needs to be for a specific person and place; how some believe that a secret warrant signed in a secret court and specific to all texts, emails, and phone calls, for all American citizens fits that description is beyond me.
The author of the patriot act has publicly stated numerous times that this was never the intention of the bill. Mass surveillance is also not included in the original text of the bill. Before Snowden, no one would believe that in America, a top-secret court, could grant top secret authority, to the most top secret agency, to collect and data-mine the calls, texts, and emails of the entire American public without probable cause or reasonable suspicion of a crime.
To the political left, liberals are all about civil liberties, at least I thought so. We saw how the left used IRS tax data to go after conservatives (remember Lerner?). If it were politically expedient I bet either party would use NSA data to take down political opponents.
To conservatives on the right in favor of NSA spying, I ask: Why do you as conservatives suddenly dislike the 4th amendment? Also, which other amendments do you wish to eliminate? It boggles my mind how ‘conservatives’ are all about a limited government and questioning their government, except when it has to do with law and justice. In these cases it is those conservatives who believe no amount of military spending would ever be enough, that believe prosecutors should over charge cases with the hope of getting something that sticks, and that there are no really bad people in law enforcement across the country. These ‘conservatives’ seem to be full of trust when it’s financially beneficial, or when it brings people to the polls in their favor.
The false argument for spying
Firstly, this meta data has not been the key factor to crack any terror investigation, EVER. Saying ‘but it could help in the future’ is not an argument. I could say that banning bathtubs and kitchen knives ‘could help prevent drowning and deaths in the future’ but no one would listen.
Secondly, the argument of: If you are against the NSA data collection on every American then you are against the military and national security, and you also do not believe in keeping Americans safe. It’s a straw man argument with no merit. Some conservatives hate it when liberals say they are ‘against clean air and water’ for not supporting more EPA regulations, yet some conservatives do the same thing when talking about the NSA.
Thirdly, the argument of: If you are not doing anything illegal then you should have nothing to hide and you should be ok with the government having all of your data. The founding fathers fought a revolution over people being secure from an intrusive government, this spits in their face. The constitution grants Americans the right to tell the government ‘NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS’.
Lastly, the argument of: We need this program to gather evidence on potential terrorists. If someone is suspected of a crime, to search their records you need probable cause enough to convince a judge to sign off on a warrant to search them, their data, their living space, and their possessions. If someone is suspected of being a terrorist, DO THE SAME THING! If it is a matter of national security, you can act and then get a warrant, which is legal. This is a dangerous slippery slope. Someone could say, without collecting everyone’s data how could we know if someone is about to commit a drug crime? Or a robbery? It leads to a state where, to make sure that you’re not breaking the law, you are compelled to give up all of your information to the government for screening.
I am a New Yorker, I know what terrorism can do to people and a city, but I’m sorry you cannot make every American a suspect to a terror plot not yet carried out under the guise of keeping everyone safe.