When the NSA wiretapping “scandal” hit the airwaves and the World Wide Web last week, mainstream media’s talking heads and bloggers alike were outraged. Some at the government, and others towards the whistleblower Edward Snowden. I, on the other hand, was unfazed.
As a self-proclaimed news junkie, I became aware of this issue back in May 2006. Back then, the story did not gain any traction. At the time, I did not have MySpace or Facebook, and there was no Twitter. No over-sharing of my life, which I have always liked to keep private. I still refuse to have Ez-Pass because, as Wendy Williams used to say on her radio show, “Don’t anyone need to know where or when I’m goin’.” So, the idea of the government analyzing my call patterns was infuriating.
“The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth … For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others… The sources would talk only under a guarantee of anonymity because the NSA program is secret.” –USA TODAY May 10th, 2006.
My biggest issue with the NSA wiretapping is the unwavering defense the NSA, the Obama administration, and many policy makers have made with regards to the legality of infringing upon our Fourth Amendment. Let me explain.
The fourth amendment of the Constitution states:
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, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
When The Patriot Act was passed in 2001, by then-President George W. Bush, it gave the government authority to temporarily suspend (or as they call it, work-around) the Fourth Amendment. Everyone was on board, including the American people.
In a memo obtained by a George Washington University professor, dated nine months before 9/11, the NSA was already taking steps to advance their surveillance program – 9/11 just gave them an excuse to get us to agree.
“The Fourth Amendment is as applicable to eSIGNINT [electronic signal intelligence] as it is to the SIGINT of yesterday and today. The Information Age will however cause us to rethink and reapply the procedures, policies and authorities born in an earlier electronic surveillance environment.”
Unfortunately for the authors of the memo, the Fourth Amendment contains no “however” or “but” clauses. The language “shall not be violated” clearly indicates that the Constitution’s authors intended no such exceptions.
Last week, President Barack Obama defended the government’s surveillance programs, stating, “You can’t have 100 percent security and also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience.” He continued, “We’re going to have to make some choices as a society. On balance we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should be comfortable about.”
Hmmm…interesting. If the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution is up for reinterpretation, suspension, or violation when it comes to national security and terrorism, then why can’t the same argument be made for the Second Amendment?
Gun violence is a major security issue in the United States. It also terrorizes neighborhoods across America every single day. How can you be steadfast on this notion that the Constitution is ironclad when one brings up the gun debate, and in the same breath, make exceptions when it comes to the Fourth. Yes, Mr. President, we do have to make some choices as a society, even if that means, “inconveniencing” the NRA.
Danielle DeAbreu is a former model and student at William Paterson University studying Broadcast Journalism with a minor in Political Science.
Follow me on Twitter @DaniDeAbreu13
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