Mr Leahey is up to no good again, it seems. Check out this news from CNET: Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants. Most of you reading this blog would find the event linked disturbing. I believe the same thing; email is and should remain absolutely private. It’s not because “I have something to hide” at all — there are in fact plenty of arguments for privacy. It’s the reason people don’t shower in public.
My father raised the following (paraphrased) case:
Say you’re a judge. It’s some time after 9/11. The public is still freaking out.
The Chief of Police of New York comes to you, begging for a warrant to raid the personal email account of some public official of New York. What’s his motive? He says there’s been a worrying amount of calls between this official and some young Muslims1. He checked them out, they look sketchy, and he’s nervous about the safety of the city.
You deny his request, and the next day, all of lower Manhattan goes up in a huge fireball of a terrorist attack. How would you feel then?
There are a few things wrong with the point raised there:
- It assumes something can be done. In reality, it’s pretty damn hard to stop an attack you know nothing about.
- Nobody knows the future. Hindsight is 20/20 only because we suddenly have all the facts.
- This is a very slippery slope. The United States of America was not created to turn into a police state. From history we know that never ends well.
I’m not a judge, nor will I ever be; I’m a programmer. That says nothing about my opinion on this issue. I belong to the school of thought that follows the ground rules for this country, in particular the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution:
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.
This amendment is not strictly limited to the words with which it is outlined, of course; it’s up to a justice’s interpretation and normally follows some case precedent… presumably allowing digital property to be protected by the same law.
Our constitution and each amendment that followed in its path are not guidelines for this country to follow; they are hard and fast rules. I know not of the actual legal situation for the above case, but I firmly believe a string of phone calls does not justify the horrific invasion of privacy.
In other news, this bill has been scuttled, more evidence that it’s a bad idea.
Folks, you are your government. Don’t mess it up.
1I’m not prejudiced, nor will I ever be, but this is how a lot of people felt after 9/11.