Terry Gross has just interviewed Jeffrey Rosen on Fresh Air regarding his new book Louie D. Brandeis, American Prophet. On the air, they read a passage from the opinion of Brandeis in the Olmsted case, the most important privacy case, regarding wiretapping. Brandeis foresaw a time when government or private businesses would be able to watch us through the technology in our homes such as the television and computer. Do they realize that this is being done as I write? That if you query on google, Microsoft, Toshiba, Roku and Magnavox have given themselves the liberty to spy on us in our homes through cameras and microphones even after some are supposedly disabled? From fear of terrorism etc, the FBI is using the private companies, while Congress will not question anyone in hearings, but will take campaign contributions from these companies to pervert the law to allow infinite marketing-spying to occur on the American citizens? I wish Mr. Rosen were here the night Microsoft took a picture of me. It was surreal: a camera came on the screen without my consent and snapped a picture, just like when one snaps a picture from the phone cam. Both the FBI and hit men find such pictures and such surveillance useful.
Lets get one thing clear first. The purpose of government is “to secure these rights,” in the second sentence of the Declaration. While the Bill of rights directly limits the national government, our government certainly does have the power to pass laws that require the private companies to secure these rights. Congress is just made up of a bunch of thoughtless, ignorant, slavish sissies. Again this started with drug testing, and perhaps directly the marijuana issue. “I will piss in a cup for no man living,” I like to say, because I am a Scotsman. But the thought behind it is this: the law forbidding marijuana is unconstitutional to begin with, and a private company cannot test applicants to see if they violate a law, because a law might just be unconstitutional. The unconstitutionality of the whole circumstance is obvious if one smokes on Sunday while reading scripture, and is, like a Rastifarian, exercising religion, truly and honestly. Only a slave, and not an American, would piss for some employer to see if they violate such a law.
But the citizens through their elected representatives- are you listening, President Obama?- must require government to compel the companies to secure these rights, through laws that are enforced. The American people just cannot and will not stand up, yet.
The Chilling passage that Rosen selects from the Olmsted opinion of Brandeis is this:
“Brandeis noted that at the time of the framing of the Constitution, a far less intrusive search — namely breaking into someone’s home and riffling through their desk drawers to identify a critic of King George III — was the quintessential example of an unreasonable search,” Rosen says, “[Brandeis added] that it was now possible to invade the privacy of people on both ends of a telephone wire. And then … Brandeis looked forward to the age of cyberspace. He said, “Ways may someday be developed — without breaking into desk drawers — to extract papers from home and introduce them in court before a jury… The court should translate the Constitution and recognize that you don’t need a physical trespass to create an unreasonable search.”
Terry Gross adds:
Rosen says it took decades for the Supreme Court to embrace Brandeis’ insights. In 1967, the high court overruled Olmstead v. United States in the case Katz v. United States, which extended the Fourth Amendment to include all areas where a person “has a reasonable expectation of privacy.” Law enforcement agents were then required to obtain a warrant before wiretapping suspects.
The whole issue, too, we might remember, does not even begin to address the circumstance where courts would grant all warrants, or grant warrants without cause and call it cause.
I will say again, Mr. Rosen, that I believe my former fiance was a person who was set on me due to proximity in my education, involuntary or compulsory proximity, to agents of the executive agencies, and that no one will even inquire as to whether what I say might be true. This woman came from a mile and a half from my University, the University of Dallas, and by coincidence I met her up here. By coincidence, I was invited to apply at the CIA after about a year at the university of Dallas, and by coincidence she was the secretary of my best friend at his company where they helped me to print my dissertation and book- all by coincidence. Astonishing, and it is also astonishing that our publications at UD were routinely pre-screened, and no one minded, astonishing that I figured out where the application offer came from and astonishing that that professor’s son now works for the CIA. Astonishing too that I have not had a moment’s peace since that discovery, have seen my hopes for family and career destroyed, etc, etc. Astonishing too that now these people have an interest in my being thought mad, and astonishing too that I have screamed bloody murder to my representatives and my university and nothing is done and no one will even inquire. Astonishing that WordPress blocks my search engine traffic so that all my traffic is word of mouth. Astonishing too that I am now much like Snowden, but I won’t leave. I have never seen a classified document in my life, and what I figure out for myself is my own. Much of this can be proven and demonstrated. Astonishing, though, that my fellow citizens, former teachers and fellow students, no one cares. Want to keep things secret? Don’t set women on people, get them to fall in love with them, then set them between friends so they will accuse one another and you all can glean the info.
These methods are a bit more advanced than wiretapping. But modern spy theory, and advances in our political theory due to our reading especially of Machiavelli, have made these new powerful means possible, means no doubt to secure the representative democracy that Jefferson and Madison envisioned.