Last week, it was revealed that the United States government is creating electronic dossiers on its citizens. This presents a stark contrast with our traditions where law enforcement and national security personnel peered solely into the lives of individuals intent on doing us harm, not the population writ large. Rather than doing the investigative legwork necessary to convince a neutral third party that such snooping is warranted and reasonable, the government argues that it is perfectly legitimate to create such dossiers and obtain warrants to read them only after it has discovered information that it considers interesting. Of course, given that the government holds the keys to the proverbial file cabinet, it doesn’t really matter whether some third party agrees that the government ought to be able to read the contents of the files contained therein. Further, how would anyone outside the government really know whether their file has been read? Therein lies the crux of the problem.
On Friday, President Obama proclaimed that if we do not trust the Executive Branch (aka President Obama) and we do not trust Congress (after he finished telling us how awful they are) and we do not trust the courts (that informed me I am responsible for paying for Sandra Fluke’s birth control though in her case I will pay happily) “we are going to have a serious problem.” Well heck yes Mr. President, we do have a serious problem!
We have learned that the NSA is collecting Americans’ phone records, emails, audio and video chats, transferred files and credit card records. If news reports are accurate, the data is so refined that the NSA is even capturing keystrokes as they are typed. This is in addition to an administration that is capturing Americans’ health records and will begin to capture information concerning Americans’ driving habits beginning next year. If liberals had their way, the administration would begin capturing information about gun ownership as well. This data is in addition to the copious financial records collected by the IRS. We are told the NSA data snooping program has helped stop terrorist attacks. Yet, with all this information, it took an astute street vendor to prevent a bomb from exploding in Times Square. Two terrorists who managed to kill and injure scores in Boston, hid out for one week within one mile of the explosions only to be discovered by a guy who left his house for a smoke!
Consequently, many are concerned about the amount of information the federal government is accumulating about the behavior of law abiding American citizens and the potential for abuse. We are witnessing this abuse unfold with the IRS targeting of President Obama’s political adversaries. There are reports that the administration may have targeted CIA Director General David Petraeus, a critic of the administration’s policy in Libya. NSA employees may have eavesdropped on individuals with whom they had personal grudges. During Congressional testimony, Attorney General Eric Holder refused to answer in an open hearing whether the NSA targeted members of Congress as part of their surveillance program.
President Obama suggested recently that “you can’t have 100% security and 100% privacy.” Perhaps that is true. On the other hand, in his dissent of a recent Supreme Court case that upheld Maryland’s collection and storage of prisoner DNA unrelated to solving the particular crime for which the prisoner was charged, Justice Antonin Scalia noted:
“Make no mistake about it: because of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason. This will solve some extra crimes, to be sure. But so would taking your DNA whenever you fly on an airplane … (or) taking your children’s DNA when they start public school.”
Justice Scalia may have been summoning his inner Benjamin Franklin:
”Those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.”
Several months ago, I published a column on this blog about the Orwellian nature of the Obama Administration. The Obama Presidency – George Orwell’s 1984 Redux. Allowing the federal government to maintain a database of our DNA, blow a gush of air beneath our skirts when we board an airplane and know all manner of our personal private information may help the government predict future crime. Then again as the Times Square attempted bombing and the Boston Marathon bombings demonstrated, it may not. What it will do is allow the government to increase its control over our lives.
At Ohio State University, President Obama suggested that some will “warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner.” I agree. Justice Scalia concluded:
“It may be wise, as the court obviously believes, to make the Leviathan all-seeing, so that he may protect us all the better. But the proud men who wrote the charter of our liberties would not have been so eager to open their mouths for royal inspection.”
Count me among those men!