If ever one needed a cogent example of why relying on the federal government to comply with the constitution and protect the liberties of the people is hopeless, the senate just gave one. Robert Wenzel reports over at his EconomicPolicyJournal that in a 79 to 12 vote, the senate rejected an amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act Reauthorization Act of 2012 (the actual name of the bill!), H.R.5949, that would have extended 4th Amendment protections to electronic communications.

Prior to the vote Rand Paul spoke on the floor urging passage of the amendment:

The Fourth Amendment guarantees that people should be secure in their persons, houses and papers against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Somewhere along the way, though, we became lazy and haphazard in our vigilance. We allowed Congress and the courts to diminish our Fourth Amendment protection, particularly when our papers were held by third parties.

I think most Americans would be shocked to know that the Fourth Amendment does not protect your records if they’re banking, Internet or Visa records. A warrant is required to read your snail mail and to tap your phone, but no warrant is required to look at your e-mail, text or your Internet searches. They can be read without a warrant. Why is a phone call more deserving of privacy protection than an e-mail?

This amendment would restore the Fourth Amendment protections to third-party records, and I recommend a yes vote.

Now, forget for a second that only 12 senators agree that warrants (which are of dubious merit in practice anyway) should be required for government agents to read your e-mail correspondence. Just consider the need to write laws in order to enforce existing laws. The Bill of Rights is a farce, as this episode clearly shows. If the 4th Amendment meant anything, there would be no need to amend an act amending another act, to protect the 4th Amendment!

Instead of hoping this kind of chicanery is going to do anything to defend the liberties of the people, states and local governments should interpose on behalf of citizens. Refusal to provide logistical support to federal authorities during investigations and raids will go a long way in combating this sort of breach of due process. If nothing else, it will send a strong message that such machinations are unacceptable.

Joel Poindexter
Latest posts by Joel Poindexter (see all)

The 10th Amendment

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”



Featured Articles

On the Constitution, history, the founders, and analysis of current events.

featured articles


Tenther Blog and News

Nullification news, quick takes, history, interviews, podcasts and much more.

tenther blog


State of the Nullification Movement

232 pages. History, constitutionality, and application today.

get the report


Path to Liberty

Our flagship podcast. Michael Boldin on the constitution, history, and strategy for liberty today

path to liberty


Maharrey Minute

The title says it all. Mike Maharrey with a 1 minute take on issues under a 10th Amendment lens. maharrey minute

Tenther Essentials

2-4 minute videos on key Constitutional issues - history, and application today


Join TAC, Support Liberty!

Nothing helps us get the job done more than the financial support of our members, from just $2/month!



The 10th Amendment

History, meaning, and purpose - the "Foundation of the Constitution."

10th Amendment



Get an overview of the principles, background, and application in history - and today.