Saturday, July 13, 2013

Professor Randy Barnett on NSA Surveillance


Randy Barnett, The NSA's Surveillance Is Unconstitutional (Op.-Ed.), Wall Street Journal (July 11, 2013):

Due largely to unauthorized leaks, we now know that the National Security Agency has seized from private companies voluminous data on the phone and Internet usage of all U.S. citizens. We've also learned that the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has approved the constitutionality of these seizures in secret proceedings in which only the government appears, and in opinions kept secret even from the private companies from whom the data are seized.
If this weren't disturbing enough, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform, is compiling a massive database of citizens' personal information—including monthly credit-card, mortgage, car and other payments—ostensibly to protect consumers from abuses by financial institutions.
All of this dangerously violates the most fundamental principles of our republican form of government. The Fourth Amendment has two parts: First, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated." Second, that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
By banning unreasonable "seizures" of a person's "papers," the Fourth Amendment clearly protects what we today call "informational privacy." Rather than seizing the private papers of individual citizens, the NSA and CFPB programs instead seize the records of the private communications companies with which citizens do business under contractual "terms of service." These contracts do not authorize data-sharing with the government. Indeed, these private companies have insisted that they be compelled by statute and warrant to produce their records so as not to be accused of breaching their contracts and willingly betraying their customers' trust.
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Still worse, the way these programs have been approved violates the Fifth Amendment, which stipulates that no one may be deprived of property "without due process of law." Secret judicial proceedings adjudicating the rights of private parties, without any ability to participate or even read the legal opinions of the judges, is the antithesis of the due process of law.
In a republican government based on popular sovereignty, the people are the principals or masters and those in government are merely their agents or servants. For the people to control their servants, however, they must know what their servants are doing.
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