FOUR NEW POSTS FROM THE LION OF THE LEFT:
One of my favorite things to do on a glorious Sunday morning was to drive with my wife to Tiburon, go to Sam's Anchor Cafe, and sit out on the deck and have a delicious brunch. Little did I know the city of Tiburon was taking a picture of our license plate and creating a database of every single car that passes into or out of their town. No one knows how long they hold on to this data, who has access it or whether they share it with anyone else or even if you need a warrant to see it. It is a small example of how we are losing the war on privacy and the 4th amendment on the premise the more the government knows the better we are protected. (anyone remember Ben Franklin's quote?)
In the last week, the House of Representatives failed to rein in the N.S.A. (National Security Agency) program which sucks up every bit of electronic communications in America and abroad every day. San Franciscan's will be pleased to know their congressional representative, Nancy Pelosi, voted to protect the N.S.A. and continue to let them spy without warrants or probable cause. This is the same Pelosi who voted to give the telecom companies immunity after they illegally turned over customer information to the Bush White House without warrants of any kind. This says allot about how she views her constituents. Despite President Obama's assurances he welcomed a debate on this issue, it turns out he quietly lobbied the House to defeat this attempt to rein in a program which clearly violates the constitution's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures of your person and private papers. The mainstream media was nowhere to be found on this debate either. While CNN et.al. were all George Zimmerman all the time, and maybe a little royal baby thrown in for good measure, there were no clips of Congressional floor speeches, analysis of the issue, chronicle of who is on what side or even the final vote tally.
While the House debate was going on, other news has surfaced to lend credence to the concerns of civil libertarians that the situation is much worse than originally thought.
Professor Randy Bennet, of Georgetown School of Law, has revealed the Consumer Federation Protection Bureau, a creation of the Dodd/Frank financial services reform legislation, is compiling a national database of personal information including monthly credit card, mortgage, car and other payments. The Post Office, according to USA Today, has the "Mail Isolation Control and Tracking Program" which photographs "every" piece of mail processed in the United States. (160 billion pieces last year) The picture shows whom you are writing to and their address. No one knows how long this data, or the Consumers Bureau data, is kept, where it is kept, who has access to it. While a warrant is needed to open the letter, no warrant is needed for the Post Office to track who you write to or correspond with. It is clear a warrant is not needed to access this Post Office data. (you will heartened to know in 2007 President Bush asserted in a signing statement the government did not need a warrant to open mail in an "emergency") The Oregonian quoted a former federal agent as saying, "...looking at just the outside of letters, and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with and much more."
The Post Office program came to light when a man in Buffalo, New York, who used to be associated with the Earth Liberation Front more than 10 years ago, found a memo in his mail showing it was being monitored by the government.
USA Today is reporting Obama Care is creating a national data base of every prescription you have ever received, treatments, procedures, doctor's notes and anything else healthcare related, once again with no transparency on how long they keep the data, who has access on what criteria and how it can be disseminated. As genetic testing increases...genetic mapping grows...as Obama care pays for mental health treatments, this information becomes more and more intimately personal and more dangerous if it is released or made available to employers or insurance companies.
The irony should be lost on no one that as Edward Snowden sits in the Moscow airport seeking asylum in some country, the programs he revealed are being debated and discussed at the highest levels of government. German Chancellor Angela Merkle justly demanded explanations from the U.S. about spying on German citizens without their knowledge. How could Snowden be a traitor or danger if what he revealed has generated so much concern worldwide?
Obama, Bush, Pelosi, Feinstein and the rest hope the short attention span of the American people will guarantee the tempest over the destruction of the 4th amendment will dissipate. They might be right. However, what is now being revealed is your privacy is under assault from your doctor's office to the corner mailbox to your favorite brunch site and you need to know and you need to find out how to protect the information and find out who has access to it. Someone has to say hold it and set some rules and defend the 4th amendment. Someone has to say the tradeoff between privacy and security is not absolute and it’s not a tradeoff you are willing to endure. Someone has to say we have much more to fear from these huge data troves than we will ever have to fear from terrorists. Someone has to say our democracy is threatened when there are few or no restrictions on the power of the government. If you wait too long, you will wake up to find no amendment left to defend.