Unconstitutional Acts of the NSA
I have been a Verizon Wireless customer since late 2001. You can imagine my disdain then, not at Verizon, but at the federal government that has issued a court order for Verizon to turn over all of the data for its customers regarding phone calls and even metadata. The story broke early on Thursday in an article in the UK’s The Guardian. This should actually scare the American people even more than the act of terrorism itself. The court order was issued on April 25 by the Foreign Intelligence Service Court (FISA) and orders Verizon to turn over the information on a daily basis until mid-July. The FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA) have refused to officially comment on the situation. The court order also explicitly tells Verizon that it cannot disclose to the public the FBI’s request or the court order itself.
It would seem that since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, that the federal government has gone out of its way to completely abandon the Constitution and the rights of the people that are protected within it. Only days after the attacks, Congress passed the Patriot Act which gave the President a blank check to fight global terrorism though we have never really defined what terrorism is. Inside the Patriot Act was the legal authority for the federal government to secretly wiretap international calls and emails. This came to light during the waning days of the Bush administration, and the public was indeed outraged. But that outrage soon died and a new administration was elected. Though Senator Obama objected to the secret wiretaps while running in the 2008 primary against then-Senator Hillary Clinton, he did an about-face after securing the nomination. (CNET) And since being elected President, he has secretly expanded the program now to include all domestic calls as well which is a direct violation of Fourth and Ninth Amendments of the 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.
President Obama said he’s ready to have a discussion of secret wiretaps. There is no discussion to be had. It is a blatant violation of his oath of office. As for members of Congress, they have completely dropped the ball and missed the point on this issue. The head of the House Intelligence Committee is more alarmed about the leak of the court order rather than the court order itself. Why is that? Because Congress gave the President this kind of authority. Yet, President Obama has stated that all three branches of government have approved of this program. If that is the case, then it is our government that has become the greatest threat to our rights and freedoms; moreso, than any outside force. And this is exactly why our Founding Fathers wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) has stated that he is worried that that calls by members of Congress and the Supreme Court could have been included within the sweep. Attorney General Eric Holder has said “that there was no intention to do anything of that nature.” But Holder has also stated that it has kept Congress fully informed on these issues as they were developed. Does that really make it acceptable or put anyone else at ease?
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) warned back in 2011 that the NSA was using a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act to basically spy on Americans. Where was the media on this story? For two Senators that saw this coming, this time it was the media that dropped the ball. In a 2011 floor speech, Sen. Wyden said, “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.” I question how angry the American people will get or if they will even bat an eye over it. Earlier today, when I actually had the TV on for a moment, the news was more concerned about the attempted-suicide of Michael Jackson’s daughter than the federal government’s unconstitutional wiretaps of American citizens. This should be the largest story of the day (and following days) and heads should be rolling for anyone that has authorized this illegal action.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) released a statement on his website where he stated, “The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about. Congress must address this issue and protect the constitutional rights of the American people. While we must aggressively pursue international terrorists and all of those who would do us harm, we must do it in a way that protects the Constitution and the civil liberties which make us proud to be Americans.”
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Since the court order did not target one specific person that was under investigation, but rather a blanket search over the American populace, it is easy to see how it would violated the Fourth Amendment. It doesn’t matter if all three branches agree that the secret surveillance is allowed to protect the people from terrorism. Common sense clearly states that it is direct violation of our rights against illegal searches and seizures. But what about our right to privacy. That comes from a Supreme Court ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965) that stated, “The Framers did not intend that the first eight amendments be construed to exhaust the basic and fundamental rights…. I do not mean to imply that the …. Ninth Amendment constitutes an independent source of rights protected from infringement by either the States or the Federal Government…”
Yet, the federal government says that this type of program is necessary to keep Americans safe from terrorism. Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI) of the House Intelligence Committee stated in an article in POLITICO that “[w]ithin the last few years, this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States.” And yet,there are those citizens that are OK with this premise. They will allow the federal government to do whatever it takes to prevent terrorism. This is because the federal government is ruling by fear and has them scared instead of ruling by law. So I ask where do we draw this line if we are willing to throw away our basic fundamental rights in order to protect ourselves from the very people who attack us because of those rights? Tyrannical governments are formed when the public becomes so afraid that they don’t care that their rights are taken away so long as they are protected.
There is an old axiom that states that justice is blind. Maybe it’s not so much justice but rather the people who right our laws. Since 2001, there seems to have been a constant attack on our founding principles and our basic rights by the people who are sworn to uphold and protect them. Our legislators (and the President) are sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution not to protect us from terrorism. Yes, we, the people, must make sure that we protect our nation, but it cannot be at the sacrifice of our rights. If we do, then we cease to be Americans. For any member that has voted in favor of the Patriot Act and the NDAA, who does not see why this type of activity is wrong and illegal, they should be removed from office for violation of their oath and their duty. To quote President Lincoln, this is a country “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” It is time that we, the people, step up and hold these elected officials accountable for their illegal actions.
According to The Hill, the court order was to be declassified in 2038.