The Fourth Amendment and the Patriot Act

As might be known from our essay on the reasons for the Fourth Amendment, we think that this provision of the Bill of Rights is being ignored, and that this ignorance has consequences that are harms to our nation. Observance of the Fourth Amendment does not mean that the nation cannot do what is necessary in times of war. We could have passed a Patriot Act with provisions to secure oversight and accountability, so that when things go wrong, a way of addressing these problems might exist. But our congress passed the Patriot Act without establishing meaningful recourse when these powers are abused. The executive branch simply ignores the Bill of Rights regarding covert actions, so that the Bill of Rights increasingly ceases to exist.

Observance of the Fourth Amendment places government in the position of an involuntary guest when it comes to unwarranted intrusion, rather than in the position of a despotic ruler with powers including imperium over life and death. The presumption of innocence means that the police must fix things when they break them, as when they are intruding, and if the people cannot afford to pay the damages, the suggestion is that we be more careful. The difference is in the lives of those recently killed in confrontations with police. We can have security with the Bill of Rights or without it. “If we do not dance for you, we will die?” the Jester asked the tyrant. We shall die in any case. The question is only, in the meantime, will we dance. We will have security, and we will have accidents, regardless of whether government observes the Fourth Amendment. The question is whether we will, in the meantime, remain free.

There is not a single complaint or investigation of corruption in the Federal executive agencies, and the means do not even exist. There are no lawyers to take such cases, which are hopeless in any case. The Church and Pike Committee reports are not even accessible. The agencies simply do what they want, for example infiltrating ten to catch one, or torturing ten to gain information from one. They argue that these things produce intelligence, but the argument is the same regardless of the proportion, be it 100 or 10,000 to 1. There is incentive only to avoid the terrible events that are occurring, but none to observe the Bill of Rights, and these agencies have covert powers. These agencies have never been held accountable, nor paid a bit to remedy the harms these programs are doing and have done, when there is no one to uphold the other end in the balance that is our liberty. Why do they not voluntarily report the truth and pay reparations when harms are done? No one cares unless it is done to them, and often they do not even know. Nor can we know the extent to which these things are harming our nation, making us weaker. Oversight, accountability, and meaningful recourse must be established, or our liberty is lost, as of the George Bush Presidency, if not before. Majority opinion governing without constitutional limits is not what the founders had in mind. It is the despotism into which American liberty degenerates, and it did not have to be this way. We are stronger, not weaker, with observance of the Fourth Amendment. That we are not is the delusion of lazy executive officers who wanted to govern without going to the trouble of being elected: too lazy to face the rigorous questioning of their interference with the citizens, and unwilling to have their efforts redirected to warranted investigations, or perhaps too criminal or corrupt to bear public scrutiny of these public offices. Perhaps there should be a law against abusing the excuse of national security. We want the committees of congress to be brought into the loop on these executive practices, and not to refer the hens back to the fox when there are questions of whose interests are looked after when he’s guarding the coop.

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