Toni Butero: Far-reaching ‘security’ tramples Constitutional safeguards
By TONI BUTERO
The leaks about our national security practices by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden are still making headlines and raising eyebrows six months after his spectacular release of documents through journalist Glenn Greenwald.
While I don’t think exposing national security practices is something that should be applauded or celebrated, the episode certainly opened the eyes of many Americans to what exactly the national security apparatus is doing in our name.
Domestic cell phone data, email data, web searches all being collected and analyzed and as I understand it every phone call you make, text you send, and order you place on Amazon is being collected and looked at.
Analysts take this metadata and can supposedly discern patterns to catch terrorists who are out to hurt America and our citizens. But is it worth it…and does it work?
A White House panel review of the NSA metadata program brought some unfortunate results to the forefront, namely that there was no evidence that this data collection helped stop or even identify terrorist attacks. Now, the foreign spying program has had positive results and stopped terrorist activities, so while our allies may be upset at our spying, the results seem to be worth it.
Warrantless collection of data, secret court hearings where the accused are not even notified that they are the subject of discussion and investigation, let alone allowed to defend themselves, and threats of jail if you inform them… were all happening in the United States in 2013.
The FISA Court (United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) has recently renewed the metadata program, saying it is legal. This court is supposed to oversee warrants and surveillance programs against foreign intelligence agents in the United States, but like all government programs, especially security and intelligence programs post 9/11, has broadened its mandates, and given the NSA an incredible amount of power to spy on not just those that want to terrorize Americans, but Americans themselves.
Benjamin Franklin famously wrote in 1755, “They who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” What kind of trade-off are we making…and has anyone asked you if it is acceptable? I for one am not comfortable with the government having its hands on, and being able to access, our emails, texts, call logs – and sharing them with any branch of government that goes poking around.
Our constitution provides us with protections from our government, such as probable cause, warrants, and the ability to defend ourselves. This court, and those who work through it, go by their own rules – that regular Americans can’t question or even watch the proceedings.
We as Americans need to ask ourselves if this is the government we want, and if spying on our friends and neighbors is worth it.