There are three things about this that have always disturbed me greatly. First is the spying part. Spying is one thing when it’s on an enemy. This was spying on citizens. Defenders will say, “yes, but it was to catch terrorists”. To which I say, “ah, so you admit they were spying on citizens!” The second thing is the fact that it is done without a warrant. This means no one is controlling the legality of this program. The final thing (that I can think of right now) is the fact that without a warrant there is no requirement to describe the person or place to be searched or the things to be seized as required by the Constitution.
Some people – we’ll call them ignorant – argue that the Constitution doesn’t include cell phone and email data since these things are not tangible. But I say hogwash to that! I use the term ignorant because I hope that is the case. Ignorance is simply not knowing a thing and can be overcome with knowledge. Perhaps they don’t know the pitfalls of a powerful state or the importance of individuals rights.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and 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.”
I say they fall very well into the category of “effects”. Those are simply all the other personal things you own. We know very well that we own our words. If those words are on email or cell phone, they are still our words.
It’s difficult for many people to be brave enough to put freedom ahead of security. They will focus on how this program “stops terrorists” and keeps us safe. Ultimately your safety is your responsibility, not the government. There is a difference between security and defense. The government’s job is defense, your job, or your well armed militia’s job, is security. It’s been pointed out, and rightfully so, that a prison is secure. Security doesn’t mean anything without liberty. We want to be secure in order to go about our business without being harmed. If we can’t go about our business then it doesn’t matter how secure we are.