I work nights.
On my “days” off, I used to switch to a daytime wake/sleep schedule in order to spend quality time with my family, but I no longer do. In my old(er) age, I have discovered that the amount of time I render myself useless due to lack of sleep, plus the amount of time it takes me to get back into night-mode after a 3-day weekend is just too much to be worthwhile for anyone anymore. Consequently, I spend a lot of time watching King of the Hill in the early morning hours while waiting until it is time to wake my daughter for school.
During a particularly funny re-run, I saw something that just happened to illustrate the problem with the NSA’s, and many American’s, reasoning, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, what’s your problem with us monitoring you?”
This episode of KOTH starts with Bobby (son) going camping with Hank (dad) and the guys for the weekend. Peggy (mom) assures Hank that she will be fine alone – getting some housework done, and maybe working a crossword puzzles over the weekend. But while the guys were out getting scouting badges, something happens that Peggy hopes Hank and Bobby never find out.
Shortly after the men leave, Peggy takes some cash out of the emergency money jar and gets in her car. She’s all dressed up in a hat and sunglasses disguise. Looking over her shoulder the entire way (so to speak – not literally), she makes her way miles out of town, gets a hotel room and holes up for the night. The next morning, she continues on and reaches her seedy destination to commit the devious activity of…
Buying size 16 shoes.
Surely, the NSA needs to monitor her transaction details so they can stop this dangerous activity! I mean, obviously, she is ashamed! She must be doing something wrong!
You see my point here: the exercise of discretion is not necessarily indicative of illegal activity. Peggy was just doing something she considered private and wasn’t particularly interested in sharing with anyone else. Surely you have done something that is not illegal, but that you would rather keep private. Maybe you hid it to protect the feelings of someone you love. Maybe you hid it because you didn’t want your kids to know. Maybe you hid it just because you don’t think it was anybody’s damn business.
My point here is that Americans are supposed to be free. And in a free country, the government is not permitted to decide what info we keep to ourselves.
Government officials, and many Americans, operate on a bad assumption: that only criminals would ever feel the need remain private. Have they no shame?
No, really I mean it… have they no shame?
Shame is a natural human emotion, not always associated with wrong-doing. Sometimes we feel shame due to failure, or perhaps due to confusion or uneasiness about a decision or situation. The point is that it is THEIR very own business. These are often the times we learn the most important lessons in life – lessons that perhaps prevent us from making terrible mistakes sometime in the future. Who wants these moments public?
Shame is one of many reasons a lot of people do not want their every move monitored and available just one quick database search away. Especially considering NSA agents, and other government functionaries, live in a shadowy world where blackmail is a tool of diplomacy and information is used for personal revenge – or to ensure compliance with an unjust law.
Another question to ask in context of this spying is this: how many laws are there that we are “supposed” to be following? When I was a kid in Michigan, I remember my history teacher telling me that there was a law on the books stipulating that if a car was driven at night on Woodward Avenue, somebody had to walk in front of it with a lantern to allow others to see it. Apparently, this is still the case. Of course, the speed limit on Woodward Avenue is about 40 mph. Needless to say, none of the drivers had people walking in front of them with a lantern back when I was a student, and I reckon they still don’t. So technically, all the drivers on that road commit a crime every time they drive it. And they don’t even know it!
That’s not as uncommon as you might think. And since ignorance of the law is no excuse, they could very well be held accountable for their crime.
How many laws like that are there?
How does that make you feel about constant government monitoring? You may THINK you have nothing to hide, but doesn’t that depend on how “they” define things?
If someone is followed long enough, he or she will eventually, inadvertently (or on purpose) break an occasional law due to ignorance, carelessness, or maliciousness. In a society with so many laws, it is unreasonable to have a database of every action, email, phone call, and movement of every single individual. This database could be used to literally pick any arbitrary individual for any arbitrary reason, and put them in jail. The Gestapo in Germany didn’t even enjoy that kind of control!
This society is looking a lot like Peggy Hills’ worst nightmare! Privacy and the Fourth Amendment are not mere props or buzz words. Anyone who has ever read 1984 certainly understands that these things are too important to trade away. And it seems like a crappy trade, considering our “security” wasn’t sufficient to foil the Boston bombers – even after a foreign government gave our intelligence people advanced warning that they were terrorists. If this gathering of ALL the phone records of EACH AND EVERY American was insufficient enough to stop terror attacks such as THIS, then maybe they are gathering the wrong info?
Perhaps it’s time to change the playbook, and dare I say – follow the Constitution.
The Fourth Amendment 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 probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
With this in mind, I have a few questions:
Which warrants were issued that specified that every American is a likely terrorist, and should have his/her privacy violated as such?
How is searching all personal phone records in America (or at least, 100 million of them) “reasonable?”
What kind of probable cause was sufficient to indict every American as a probable criminal?
Which rubber stamping judge signed a warrant specifying ‘everywhere’ as the place to be searched by the NSA?
The NSA should be ashamed, and we – as free, tax-paying Americans – should be outraged! I, for one, AM!
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