Friday, May 19, 2006

Views on domestic "surveillance"

Civil liberties, including the right to privacy, are critically necessary in any free society (the ability to express myself through this site is an obvious example). However, civil liberties do not in and of themselves, supersede national security. By using the term "civil liberties" in this post, I am writing primarily about the right to privacy guaranteed under the Fourth Amendment.

National security trumps the right to privacy when the party imposing security measures (e.g. the U.S. Government) is functioning in the interest of the people it is imposing such measures upon, to protect them from those who would do them harm (e.g. Terrorists). That is precisely the circumstance we are faced with today.  I love freedom as much as anyone, but some of the current clamor on domestic surveillance is over the top.

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act enacted in 1996 (better known as HIPAA), for example, the government reserved the right to review your medical records without court approval, if such an action is deemed potentially useful to a federal investigation. I wasn't particularly concerned about that in 1996, nor am I now. How many "abuses" of that law have been documented in the last five years?  Ten years?

Now consider all the domestic surveillance hubbub we hear today and ask: Do you really think the CIA cares about phone calls you have made, or books you have checked out?


Dick Cheney, Wikipedia
I appreciate the slippery slope argument, but I don't want to hamper efforts to locate people who would hurt innocent Americans.  Dick Cheney can check my phone logs (as long as someone I trust can check his).