NPR, on the Dianne Rehm show, has just aired a nice debate on the provision of the Patriot Act that did not really authorize the collection of all phone data as relevant, but rather, relevant data. Yea, not all searches are warranted, but only warranted searches. The one on the show who spoke for liberty gave a very nice summary of the James Otis issue, as is also on Wikipedia and my politics page, in the Fourth Amendment article. The Fourth Amendment is surprisingly fundamental.
Here is what is not being said. When there are abuses, something needs to happen, and currently there is no recourse, or nothing happens. Abuses are ignored, and there is no recourse-no lawyers to take federal cases, and no money to sue, as though everyone, Congress included were so afraid of ISIS and so intimidated by the NSA, convinced that the meaningful recourse which alone can protect liberty in these extra-constitutional times were itself the big danger to liberty. These times demand that we be able to hold complex thoughts, and the old patriotism which requires that no questions be asked is what is now outmoded. The participants in the debate mentioned oversight, but there was not a word about accountability and meaningful recourse. Both intelligence committees of congress say oversight of this sort, pertaining to the Bill of Rights, is not their job, and refer one to the agencies themselves, who of course treat questions of rights and the abuse of power as seriously as the police did before Baltimore. What happens when government surveillance destroys a life, not to mention the schizophrenic effect on the nation of total surveillance? Is there voluntary reporting of harms by the executive officers themselves? Like “Oops, we made a mistake, and we will do what we can to make it up to you, while correcting our system so that we do not harm the Americans, who hold the fate of liberty for the world now in their hands?” Or, “Since we do not want to make America weaker, we will voluntarily report when we think our surveillance and interference have caused harm that was not warranted.” And failing this voluntary recourse, is there a way for congress to respond, when the executive will not? For you, my reader, must know that it is the very essence of covert activity that it go undetected, making recourse usually in principle impossible.
And have we not heard the adage the executive officers have been telling themselves for twenty years now, that “what people do not know cannot hurt them?”
In order to comment on the NPR website for this show, I would be required to give information that will then be sold, by Google, Facebook, Twitter or Discus.
Are you listening Rand Paul? Ben Carson? Barack Obama? We insist on meaningful recourse. Now.