Yesterday (June 6, 2013) was the birthday of Nathan Hale (1755–1776). Hale volunteered for an intelligence-gathering mission in New York City but was captured by the British and hanged. It was Hale who famously said, “I only regret that I only have but one life to give to my country.”
General Washington was desperate to determine the upcoming location of the British invasion of Manhattan Island. Washington needed a spy to go behind enemy lines. Hale was the only volunteer.
Hale spied on the enemy. He didn’t go on a mission among his own people. He went behind enemy lines.
It seems that times have changed. All Americans are now enemies of the State. We’re learning that our government is collecting data from every electronic source possible. I’m a Verizon customer, like millions of other American cell phone users. Somewhere my phone data are being stored.
How ironic that we have to learn from a British news source that “[t]he U.S. government has obtained a top secret court order that requires Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of Americans to the National Security Agency on an ‘ongoing daily basis,’ the UK-based Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday [June 5, 2013].”
A lot of good any of this information gathering did to stop the school shooting in Newtown and the pressure-cooking bombings in Boston.
The only solace we can take away from this story is that our government is incompetent, but one day it may not be.
While we are not to the place in America where the fictional story line of the film Enemy of the State (1998) has become reality, nevertheless, the very idea that our government is gathering information on ALL American citizens should shake us to the core of our being, “because you made a phone all!”
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We were warned about the possibility of such infamy 85 years ago by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis in the first wiretapping case that came before the nation’s highest court. In his dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States (1928), Justice Brandeis wrote:
“Ways may some day be developed by which the government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home.”1
That day is here. There are only two things that keep this information gathering from becoming oppressive: (1) the sheer volume of the information being gathered and (2) the Inspector Clouseau-type government employees that run these agencies.
Even so, we can’t rest because our government is incompetent. Now is the time to put a stop to the emerging American police state:
“Can we allow the government and its law enforcement agencies to intrude upon this sacred privacy with the thinnest of excuses? Unfortunately, however, privacy violations are occurring in almost every sphere of our lives. These violations are in part enabled by the technology-driven excesses of post-modern society and in part aided by the shaping effect of 9/11. Thus, individual privacy space in the United States has shrunk at an alarming rate during the last decade.”2
Nat Hentoff, writing in the introduction of John Whitehead’s new book A Government of Wolves, “I believe we are in a worse state now than ever before in this country. With the surveillance state closing in on us, we are fighting to keep our country free from our own government.”
- Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 474 (1928) (Brandeis). [↩]
- Saby Ghoshray, “Privacy Distortion Rationale for Reinterpreting the Third-Party Doctrine of the Fourth Amendment,” Florida Coastal Law Review, Vol. 13:33 (May 15, 2012), 34. [↩]