Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy 4th

Hey kittens, happy 4th.  I've been thinking about the 4th a lot lately, and this being the 4th I thought it might be a good time to write about it.  You know the 4th don't you?  It goes like this:
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.
Now that's a wonderful thing.  Our Constitution, our supreme law, contains within it a clear restriction on the power of government that guarantees that the people of our land will never have to worry about the abuse of the great power that we, the people, put in the hands of our political, judicial, or military leaders.  Since all of the people who serve in those branches of our democracy take a sacred oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, it would be quite extraordinary if this crucial set of individual rights were ever violated.

Our private business is ours and we never have to worry about "Big Brother" looking over our shoulders.  Any time the government peeks into a citizen's private matters you can be sure that such peeking is done for a good reason, and that this reason has been carefully considered  and found to have a probable cause, and that even then the search must be limited to only the things that are described in a legally sworn warrant.  This is a very high standard indeed.

Oh, I know.  It's just words on paper, isn't it?  Haven't totalitarian states often claimed similar "rights" for their citizens, legal fictions that were more propaganda than protection?  Of course.  The old Soviet Union had a constitution too:
Article 54. Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed inviolability of the person. No one may be arrested except by a court decision or on the warrant of a procurator.
Article 55. Citizens of the USSR are guaranteed inviolability of the home. No one may, without lawful grounds, enter a home against the will of those residing in it.
Article 56. The privacy of citizens, and of their correspondence, telephone conversations, and telegraphic communications is protected by law.
Article 57. Respect for the individual and protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens are the duty of all state bodies, public organisations, and officials.
Citizens of the USSR have the right to protection by the courts against encroachments on their honor and reputation, life and health, and personal freedom and property.
Just words.  Didn't mean a thing.  But here in the U.S. of A. things are a bit different.  Not only does every public official vow to defend our rights, but our citizens will not stand by and see those rights violated.  Imagine, if you will, that we found out that our government was spying on us -- that data about all of the emails and phone calls of every citizen was being collected by a secretive agency.  Imagine that this was not based on any probable cause.  Imagine that the specific area of the search was limited to being everyone and everything.  And then suppose that this was all approved by a secret court, a Star Chamber, if you will, that had tried us all and found each of us to be suspect.  Such a thing would clearly be a violation of our most fundamental rights, and Americans would never stand for it.  We would rise together, hold mass protests, demand hearings, and work to set things right once again.  That's what makes our system work.  The Constitution is only as strong as the will of the people to keep it strong.  If that should ever waiver, God help us all.

1 comment:

Pat Tillett said...

International terrorism has caused this to erode a bit and to me, that is okay. If you listen to some folks these days, you'd think we are suffering under an oppressive regime.
I was never a Bush supporter in the slightest bit, but I think he responded to the outcry people were making about "losing their freedoms" based on wiretapping, public cameras, email sampling, monitoring phone calls, etc., when he went to the core issue and said, "If you aren't a member of Al-Qaeda, you don't have anything thing to worry about!"

Of course we all know that law enforcement is also getting some benefit from "homeland security" findings. I'm not sure how I feel about yet... You got me thinking about it again.