Tom Merchant, for the Sentinel Tribune, wrote an article called, “Between the Lines,” focusing on the recent NSA surveillance revelations. In his effort to defend the NSA’s actions, he listed a few of the amendments from the Bill of Rights and argues that many are now antiquated.

He made cases against the Second and Third Amendments to justify his position. There are elements of his arguments that are clearly debatable.

This kind of thinking is clearly dangerous. If we drop the “original intent” of the Constitution to keep up with “the signs of the times,” then none of our rights are truly protected. And if the Constitution needs to be updated, there is something called the Amendment Process.

Merchant writes:

NSA is not actually listening to peoples conversations, but if the government wants to know where I am going out to eat and other mundane things, I really don’t care. It is probably unfortunate that we must give up some of our privacy, but that is just a sign of the times

I really don’t see anything in the amendments that relates to personal privacy, other than the Fourth Amendment preventing the government from unreasonable search and seizure.

Merchant has faith that the NSA isn’t listening to our calls. Do you? The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, testified to Congress that they are not collecting information on the general public. If the he lied to Congress about this, why should we believe government officials are not listening to the phone conversations?

Merchant also states that he, like Sgt. Schultz ,sees nothing in the amendments that protects the privacy of the citizenry. Here is the text of the Fourth Amendment:

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.

How does the act of just placing a phone call create probably cause? These seizures of the records are clearly a violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Merchant is correct that the Bill of Rights doesn’t actually list “privacy” as a right. However, he makes a false assumption when he claims it doesn’t exist. There were founding fathers who did have a concern that a list of rights might lead to other natural rights being infringed since they weren’t specifically stated. Prophetic, those guys.

This is the purpose of the Ninth Amendment, basically affirming that rights belong to the people regardless whether they are listed in the Constitution or not.

Tom Merchant should brush up on the history of the Constitution.


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