What Does The Constitution Say About Surveillance?

What Does The Constitution Say About Surveillance?

The Constitution provides American citizens with certain rights that are not to be infringed upon by the government. It seems as time goes on, the government of the United States tries to infringe further and further on its citizens’ rights. Indiscriminate government surveillance is just one piece of the infringement pie.    

It’s a sad truth that our freedoms as Americans are evaporating. Since the Twin Towers were attacked, Americans have lost liberties in the name of security. Laws such as the Patriot Act were passed with the hope that they would stop future terrorist attacks. So far, surveillance under the Patriot Act has proved ineffective. It was a law that was passed 45 days after the attack on the Twin Towers and wasn’t thought out. Fear was the motivator in the passing of the law.

“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.”

The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution provides protection from warrantless, indiscriminate government surveillance. The courts are beginning to side with the Constitution. In late 2013, as ProPublica reported, that U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled the NSA bulk phone metadata collection was likely unconstitutional.

More recently, a federal appeals court ruled the NSA phone metadata collection illegal. The ruling was made just last month by a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The government had argued that it was only collecting relevant information. Information that could in theory stop a terrorist plot. The unanimous court opinion had a different view on information’s relevancy.

“The interpretation urged by the government would require a drastic expansion of the term ‘relevance,’ not only with respect to § 215, but also as that term is construed for purposes of subpoenas, and of a number of national security-related statutes, to sweep further than those statutes have ever been thought to reach,”

The Patriot Act recently expired thanks to Senator Rand Paul. A similar bill was passed soon after its expiration. The replacement law adds a few restrictions to the Patriot Act, but leaves much of it intact.

If an objective person were to read the Constitution, and then consider the Patriot Act, they would know that the two documents were conflicting one another.


US Congress Passes Surveillance Reform Bill


This article was originally published November 11, 2013 but has undergone major editing. 


[Photo © Oatboat.com]

Chance Moschell

Chance Moschell

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