"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Warrantless Searches–More Big Brother

I have written about government invasion of privacy in two recent posts, but it seems like every day there is new evidence of federal overreaching into the affairs of private citizens on the grounds of national security.  Here is the latest in outrageous insults to our liberty from today’s (1.15.12) Washington Post:

Warrantless searches

The president may now order warrantless surveillance, including a new capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications and associations. Bush acquired this sweeping power under the Patriot Act in 2001, and in 2011, Obama extended the power, including searches of everything from business documents to library records. The government can use “national security letters” to demand, without probable cause, that organizations turn over information on citizens — and order them not to reveal the disclosure to the affected party. (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to engage in widespread discretionary surveillance.)


Here is another related to the first:

Immunity from judicial review

Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has successfully pushed for immunity for companies that assist in warrantless surveillance of citizens, blocking the ability of citizens to challenge the violation of privacy. (Similarly, China has maintained sweeping immunity claims both inside and outside the country and routinely blocks lawsuits against private companies.)

And another:

Secret evidence

The government now routinely uses secret evidence to detain individuals and employs secret evidence in federal and military courts. It also forces the dismissal of cases against the United States by simply filing declarations that the cases would make the government reveal classified information that would harm national security — a claim made in a variety of privacy lawsuits and largely accepted by federal judges without question. Even legal opinions, cited as the basis for the government’s actions under the Bush and Obama administrations, have been classified. This allows the government to claim secret legal arguments to support secret proceedings using secret evidence. In addition, some cases never make it to court at all. The federal courts routinely deny constitutional challenges to policies and programs under a narrow definition of standing to bring a case.

With government policies like this and complaisant judges willing to look patriotic and beyond issues of liberty and invasion of privacy, government becomes more and more powerful and immune to inquiry and scrutiny.  The government can now detain someone – in many cases for long periods of time – on the basis of evidence which it says it cannot release.  As above, cases against the United States are routinely dismissed because government says that revealing its sources would compromise national security.

This is an unconscionable arrogation of government power.  Not only does it have increasing power to intrude on individual’s free speech, but to collect information and not reveal it.  Due process is completely abrogated. 

And finally, an item to which I referred in my earlier post:

Continual monitoring of citizens

The Obama administration has successfully defended its claim that it can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. (Saudi Arabia has installed massive public surveillance systems, while Cuba is notorious for active monitoring of selected citizens.)

I cannot believe that I live in a country which so cavalierly repudiates our basic freedoms – a government obsessed by national security and a judiciary acting as a lackey and handmaiden to it.  Never in my youth did I ever expect that I would have to wonder whether I got fair treatment by my government or whether or not I was spied on illegally; or whether my words were monitored, collected, and used against me.

I have long since had just about enough, but the hits just keep on coming.

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