Saturday, December 17, 2005

Fourth Amendment, RIP

After a lengthy illness and a rapid downturning, our Constitution's Fourth Amendment died today. America asks that in lieu of flowers, admirers send wiretaps, email spying software and letters of support to the NSA,Washington, DC. Memorial services will be held today, briefly, and then completely forgotten by our media by Sunday evening.

Who was the fourth amendment? As a close friend and ally, allow me to paint a picture of the Fourth Amendment I knew and loved, that allowed citizens:

..."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."

The amendment's custodian of record, George W. Bush, is currently being investigated for failure of fiduciary duty. In his defense, Bush had this to say:

"Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country."

Further, he said he would continue to allow for spying on American citizens (paraphrase).

The actual quote appears a viable defense at first blush. It's wrong, however. The death of our friend Mr. Fourth Amendment did not come as a result of our media reporting on illegal domestic spying. It came the moment Bush secretly decided to allow for such research on 80,000 known American citizens.

The moment Bush declared us "One Nation Under Surveillance" and began to monitor the Quakers, amongst other outspoken opponents of this war, our Fourth Amendment rights ceased to exist. The actual danger and damage done was in his unlawful act, not the reporting of same by our media.

As a visibly shaken Russ Feingold said today after Bush's speech, "We have a president, not a king!" adding that these activities were most certainly illegal.

Let's be clear, shall we? Under no circumstances should we, as American citizens acting within legal constraint, undergo surveillance by our elected officials.

Lest you think I'm merely being paranoid, and that "as long as there's nothing to hide, there's no need to worry" let me explain it like this:

In life, I'm one of those annoying people who, when someone says, "How are you?" feels compelled to respond in minute detail.

In short, an open book. But the minute someone else opens that book without my knowledge and consent, they're acting illegally and unethically. Period.

Exigent circumstances are accounted for when it comes to probable cause for surveillance. In other words, if a warrant cannot immediately be obtained, but suspicions indicate an immediate need for action, then conditions exist to meet those requirements. Warrants can be issued retroactively within a time frame, as long as certain requirements are met.

This is never, ever the same as ongoing hidden surveillance of American citizens without probable cause or in the case there's not enough reason to issue a warrant.

As Americans we need to know the difference, and know our rights, in order not to be blinded by deliberate obfuscation from a government hell-bent on overstepping its boundaries.
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