If you watched the Republican Presidential Primary Debate hosted by Fox News in early August, then you witnessed Senator Rand Paul square off with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie over mass surveillance.
The discussion was just in time for the National Security Agency (NSA) to report it will be destroying phone records it collected from ordinary Americans under the mass surveillance program Paul was referring to (1).
The problem is, it collected those records in the first place despite constitutional protections for Americans against unreasonable search and seizure (2).
In May this year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the mass surveillance program was illegal (3).
In June, legislators passed a bill that ended the program (4). So it appears we’re slowly moving back in the right direction where constitutional protections are concerned. Still, it’s not enough.
Why Civil Liberties are Still Under Threat
We’re not out of the water yet, and we may never get out. The whistle blower who leaked NSA top secret documents regarding the mass collection program (Edward Snowden) is still at large, proving that the federal government has no concern for your rights or anyone else’s.
If the NSA surveillance program was illegal from the start, then Snowden is an American hero for unveiling it. But he’s still being treated like a criminal (5).
In fact, President Obama’s Administration still wants to prosecute Snowden for disclosing information that protects Americans’ civil liberties. Presidential hopeful Marco Rubio has called Snowden a traitor. However, many feel Snowden was simply standing up for the very principles many Americans have died for.
Technically speaking, Snowden may be guilty of high crimes (6), but the president has the power to pardon him for those crimes.
While few of us can deny that we live in dangerous times, there is a fine line to walk between being tough on crime, terrorism, and unruly children and protecting civil liberties. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in 2007, detailed 10 ways that civil liberties have trampled upon since 911 (7).
We Have a Problem in America
America’s got a huge problem. It’s not race, it’s not drugs, it’s not education, and it’s not bad music. It’s class warfare (8).
Evidence of this warfare is all around us. It’s in the militarization of our police forces, which has occurred largely as a result of the War on Drugs, which has had a bigger impact on poor and minority families on the whole (9).
It’s in the Occupy movement that took off like a storm then slowly dissipated as law enforcement agencies and local bureaucracies made peaceful protest more difficult (10).
And it’s in the volumes of white collar crimes that have gone unpunished (11).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad to see the NSA destroying records. They never should have collected them in the first place. If you ask me if I’m hopeful that civil liberties will be restored, the answer is no.
References & Image Credits:
(2) Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute
(4) Wired (July 27, 2015)
(5) The Guardian
(6) Recent Spy Recalls May Indicate Edward Snowden Has Gone Too Far
(8) The Nation
(10) Mother Jones
(12) Wikipedia: Paper Shredder