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Does the NSA Violate Your Constitutional Rights?

Many Americans do not know what their constitutional freedoms are or why they were established in the first place. The freedoms Americans have are rare and fragile. They were put in place to protect people and ensure our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Professor James Otteson explains the importance of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prior to the Revolutionary War, King George III issued what are called general warrants. Essentially, this allowed government officials to seek out and look for any wrongdoing without probable cause. Such general warrants were carried out on anyone in America, including among the people that would come to be our Founders.

The Founders instilled in the Constitution rules requiring warrants to have probable cause and limiting them to specific times, places, and people. Why is this important? Prof. Otteson says it’s important “because with unlimited authority, officials inevitably find wrongdoing.” Witch hunts always find witches. Constitutional protections like the Fourth Amendment are especially important for people who want to do things differently than the majority. These freedoms enable Americans to find their own paths to happiness as free and equal citizens.

Are the NSA's surveillance programs actually legal? (video): Heidi Boghosian, executive director for the National Lawyers Guild, explains her views on US’s NSA surveillance programs and their constitutionality


Telephone Traffic [cartoon]: Mike Keefe’s political cartoon on NSA surveillance


The Court Overseeing NSA Spying Has Already Found It Violated The Constitution 'At Least Once' [article]: Michael Kelley analyzes the many government, journalist, and whistleblower claims regarding the constitutionality of the US NSA program


The NSA Scandal Violates the Lessons of Our History and Our Constitution [article]: Andrew Napolitano explains the historical importance of the 4th Amendment and the constitutionality of the NSA


NSA Oversteps (Again) [article]: Doug Schoen questions the administrations confusion over the NSA surveillance program and concern for the program’s possible overreach


U.S. Admits Surveillance Violated Constitution At Least Once [article]: Spencer Ackerman comments on how recent NSA surveillance efforts have violated the Constitutional prohibition on unlawful search and seizures on at least one occasion


Dianne Feinstein, Mike Rogers on NSA Spying 'Balance is a Difficult Thing to Actually Identify' (video): The Intelligence Committee chairs on “This Week” explain the oversight of NSA surveillance


Does the NSA Violate Your Constitutional Rights?
Many people don’t know what their constitutional freedoms are or why they have them in the first place. They’ve gotten so used to the freedoms they’ve enjoyed as Americans that they haven’t noticed just how rare and fragile they really are.
Before America's founding, the British king George III would issue what were called general warrants, which empowered local authorities to look for wrongdoing anywhere and to use their discretion to find any kind of treasonous behavior, including among the people that would come to be our Founders. But this became such an abuse of dictatorial authority that after the Revolutionary War a prohibition on general warrants was written right into the United States Constitution. It’s there in the Fourth Amendment, prohibiting general warrants and requiring warrants to have probable cause and limiting them to specific places, times, and people.
Why is this protection important? Because with unlimited authority, officials inevitably find wrongdoing. Remember, witch hunts always find witches. Inquisitions always find blasphemers. And majorities will often repress minorities if they can.
Constitutional protections like the Fourth Amendment serve the minorities in particular, people who think differently or want to read or listen to different music or associate in ways that the majority doesn’t. The freedom we Americans enjoy to find our own paths to happiness are enabled by these protections. In America we want no kings, we want no masters. We just want free and equal citizens who are allowed to pursue their own paths to happiness.

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11 Comments

  1. Greg Gauthier

    It doesn’t MATTER if they "violate" constitutional "rights". The question is, is it morally good to threaten people with theft, kidnapping, assault, or murder, in order to serve the "security interests" of the american state?

  2. andrei.roibu

    The US has reached a vital, paradox question: What do we want? More freedom or more security? From a historical point of view, these two never went along hand in hand, from the simple reason that, if you give people freedom, you also give some individuals the freedom to want to limit other people’s freedom, and if you decide to have a better security, it is very hard to find out the specific individuals in society that pose a threat, so, you have to keep everybody in check (aka, the NSA). Only the american, or, why not, world people will decide what they want for their own future. 

  3. Ryan Boyd

    Sad part is things won’t change. There isn’t real oversight, and why should there be for the elite? It benefits them more to say they aren’t collecting information and keep doing it than any other solution.

  4. Jeremy Harding

    Well, if you want to be technical about it, then I’ll suggest you look up the difference between morals and ethics. If we’re having an *ethical* discussion, then you’re possibly correct. If not, the morality of the Constitution still stands.

    I can agree with you on an ethical level, but to reject the argument against the Constitutional infringements in which the NSA engages, when most people won’t make any distinction between Constitutional rights and human rights, is about as trivial as me throwing out your argument because you failed to make the distinction between morals and ethics, and about as effective as that in advancing the cause of liberty activism. Let’s not make liberty seem hostile and cavilous. We’re trying to get people to like liberty, not think they’ll be snapped at if they say something slightly disagreeable.
  5. Anonymous

    By their very nature, governments grow to the point where they become burdensome to the governed.  At that point, they must do things to ensure their existence – oppression, propaganda, redirection, and control are just the tip of the iceberg.  Throughout the world today, we have a large number of established governments that are becoming an increasing burden to the governed.  The intrusions we see are just the start.

     

    1984 was just a typo to that famous book’s title.

     

    Either that, or I am becoming overly sensitive and paranoid.

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