The book 1984 is probably the most pan-partisan book ever. Regardless of your political ideology, the book scares the pants off of you, at least to some extent. If you’re like 99.9% of the population, you blame the another side for taking us closer to the point that Big Brother is reality. Laws that extent surveillance powers are usually the most vehemently debated because of that fear of 1984′s world. Only now, it seems the government’s skipping the new laws and just trying to change the interpretation of current law for the same effect. At least, that’s according to a couple of senators who would, at least in theory, have a clue about what’s going on.
“There is a significant discrepancy between what most Americans – including many members of Congress – think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and how government officials interpret that same law,” wrote the Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. “We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret. ”
OK, I probably wouldn’t, but that’s because I’m cynical and paranoid when it comes to government, but I suspect that most of my fellow Americans don’t feel the same way as me. So what’s the concern specifically?
The Senators won’t say, exactly, what elements of this secret Patriot Act have them so spooked. But Wyden told Danger Room in May that the so-called “business-records provision” is a major source of concern. It empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.
So instead, the Senators are left to make vague — if vociferous — protests. “In our view, the executive branch’s decision to conceal the U.S. government’s official understanding of what this law means is unacceptable, and untenable in the long run,” Wyden and Udall wrote in the committee’s report on the Authorization Act. “Intelligence agencies need to have the ability to conduct secret operations, but they should not be allowed to rely on secret laws.”
I’ve got to agree with the senators. They’re 100% right, we should understand how the United States government interprets the law. We need to know how they feel about our rights against illegal search and seizure, our very right to privacy. This is one of those things we have a right to know, and a need to know, and we don’t know.
I can hear some folks clamoring now. “We need to combat terrorism! What’s the problem? If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about.” Pardon my bluntness here, but that’s BS.
The “if you have nothing to hide argument” pretends that there is no Fourth Amendment at all. After all, police can just enter your house and search it if they want to. If you have nothing to hide, what’s the problem? Oh yeah, and if they want to give your wife a full cavity search, it’s not problem. After all, if she’s got nothing to hide, what’s the problem?
The fact of the matter is that, while I have nothing to hide, I have plenty that’s none of their damn business. I have things about my life that I like to keep private because that’s it’s just how I want to keep things. The Fourth Amendment gives me the right to not have the government snooping in and amongst everything just because they’re curious. However, the Patriot Act – and possibly the government’s overly broad interpretation of that law – apparently mean that my privacy counts for less than Anthony Weiner’s word that it wasn’t his junk broadcast over the entire internet.
One thing that I’d like to point out to the current Administration, that I tried to point out to supporters of the last one, is that the path you start down now can easily be followed by the next guy…and you might not like his motivations in the least.