Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The NSA Defenders' Case Ignores The Constitution

     Since National Security Administration data mining leaker and all around weasel, Edward Snowden, made his startling outing of just how wide spread and massive the government's collection of Americans' personal data has become, there has been defense of the program from both the Left and the Right. At times, the Obama administration's degree of rigorous support for the existence of the program has been over-shadowed by the case made for it by those on the Right. And while I am no fan of Mr. Snowden nor the program he exposed, I can not understand why anyone who values the Constitution of the United States can defend such an obvious aberration of it.
     The defense of the NSA's extreme snooping program consists of two prongs. One, that the program is the only way in the known universe to uncover the communications of terrorists who mean us harm. It is a miracle that those responsible for U.S. security during World War II were able to fight the Germans, Japanese and Italians without rummaging through the garbage cans of every American. The second prong of the NSA's data strip mining program defense is that no innocent American has had their rights violated by the program, and because of that, the program passes the Constitutional sniff test. The promoters of such nonsense distract the unsophisticated with a no-harm-no-foul argument as it relates to any one individual's civil liberties, but misses the larger issue of the whole Constitutional concept of civil liberties being placed on the chopping block.
     A corollary argument to the no-harm-no-foul one that some on the Right have made in defense of the data mining operation being performed by the peoples government, is that national security is one of the few tasks in which the founders believed the federal government should engage. So, they say, all good Conservatives and believers in the Constitution should therefore support the NSA's collection of every one's phone records and Internet transactions. This leap in logic proposed by the proponents of the program is at best woefully uniformed and at worst deliberately disingenuous. The founders would agree that the national security duty charged to the federal government by the Constitution must be restrained by the civil liberties of individuals. There is nothing more important to the free and proper functioning of the republic than the concept of individual liberty and freedom, without it, national security is a moot point.
     Finally, the defenders of such widespread confiscation of civil liberties via a dragnet approach to collecting data, have suggested that it must be constitutionally legitimate because federal judges have said it was okay. If judges were so infallible when it came to civil liberties, we would still have slavery in this country as a result of the Dred Scott decision arrived at by judges. The fact that, as James Madison pointed out, men are not governed by angels, is exactly the reason that he placed individual liberties as the cornerstone of the Constitution as a limiting principle on the powers and authority of the federal government. The massive data mining program conducted by the NSA chips away at that cornerstone and threatens to topple the very edifice of liberty and freedom in this nation.


  1. Thanks for your commentary as always, you're an excellent blogger.
    In response, first of all the limitations of the federal government in executing national defense was first limited in the constitution, not even an amendment, that espionage on citizens is prohibited.
    Secondly, (and mostly in agreement) no matter how the data is used, even if by a "crunching" process in which the raw material acquired is never seen by persons, material taken is subject to Warrenton, and any court that subjugates that is rogue.
    Finally, I can agree that Snowden acted as a weasel in escaping retribution, but I feel obligated to defend that his actions, (as far as we currently know tbem) he never ever did anything to aid enemies of the United States, and only ever gave pertinent information to citizens. If terrorists needed to be told not to use Gmail, they didn't need Snowden to tell them that.

    1. I was jus thinking more, it seems likely that Snowden came upon the information he released publicly by accessing files he had no right to access. If so, he certainly was a peeping Tom, neither how he found them nor how he escaped punishment is admirable, but I'm sure we both can agree that even an otherwise despicable person sometimes does one good thing that cannot be ignored. Like the gangster in the movie who decides to stop a horrible crime, only to be found dead in a safe house.