The Whole Surveillance State Must Go



The NSA surveillance scandal has awakened Americans to their dwindling privacy rights. Now is the time to stand up and consistently defend the Fourth Amendment.

For years, the government has spied on all our financial dealings, our medical records, our bank transactions. Liberals shrugged because it all served to build the regulatory state they wanted. Meanwhile, the government claimed ever greater authority to search people as they went about their business or drove in their cars, usually defending the ever expanding search power in the name of the war on drugs. Conservatives shrugged because it served a policy they approved.

After 9/11, the government opened up increasingly invasive searches of plane passengers and loosened the requirements under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to wiretap our phones in the guise of anti-terrorism. Too many Americans yawned.

Total Information Awareness

Our Rulers’ Ideal

We are on the cusp of having no privacy left. The NSA has access to all our online activity. It has a free hand in monitoring our phone calls. The Post Office is photographing all our mail. The local police, in coordination with the federal government, keep tabs on where we drive our cars. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all our health records will be accessible in one database. They have the power to listen in on your conversations by turning on your cell phone. They are constructing a data center in Utah that can hold every bit of digital information in the entire world.

The goal has been the same for over a decade: Total Information Awareness. The government seeks to have all the data it can possibly get, and keep tabs on every documented detail in your life. They will share this data with law enforcement agencies that have nothing to do with terrorism, which is itself a minuscule threat compared to what America faced during the Cold War.

The only way to stop this is a nationwide movement to restore the Fourth Amendment completely. No more warrantless searches—for any reason: drugs, guns, taxes, money laundering or terrorism. This system cannot be reformed, because the system, from top to bottom, is all aimed at abolishing every last bit of personal privacy.

We have been told it’s a balance between liberty and security, but look where that game has gotten us. The government wants total control. Only if we reject their entire agenda can we have any footing in restoring our liberties.

In George Orwell’s 1984, everything was monitored, except the protagonist Winston Smith did have a small corner he could hide in, where the cameras couldn’t see him. Where we’re heading, we won’t even have that corner.

I’ll be doing more writing in this space and elsewhere about the details, but for now I want to suggest that what is needed is a radical rethinking of this entire issue. It’s not about terrorism. It’s not about national security. It’s about creating a surveillance state that far exceeds what Orwell or East Germany could have even imagined. Now is the time for Americans to stop compromising. We don’t need reform, we need to tear the whole thing down.

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