Hillary Clinton, after the Brussels terrorist attacks, called for more surveillance. Donald Trump called for the torture of terrorist suspects. Ted Cruz called for law enforcement patrolling and securing Muslim neighborhoods.
Where is the call to defend our civil liberties?
The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides,"[t]he right of the people 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 invasion of privacy runs afoul to the philosophy spoused by the Founding Fathers. They feared big government, especially a government with the power to spy on anybody without a warrant. They recognized what happens when a government gains too much power, often in the guise of national security.
James Madison wrote, "Where an excess of power prevails, property of no sort is duly respected. No man is safe in his opinions, his person, his faculties or his possessions.”
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And mass surveillance doesn't work. Metadata surveillance in France, which has surveillance measures that are much tougher than our own, failed and yet officials wanted to continue to do it. The FBI in the United States has admitted that the NSA bulk collection program hasn't helped crack a major terrorist case.
The White House couldn't point to a single case where the bulk collection of phone data thwarted a terrorist attack. An analysis conducted by the New American Foundation also found that the bulk collection of phone records by the NSA "has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was right when he said,"The bulk collection of your phone data, the invasion of your privacy did not stop one terrorist attack."
And yet despite these assertions, both parties continue to advocate for stricter and harsher measures. Where are American Muslims' civil liberties when Donald Trump advocates for spying on mosques without a warrant? How are they safe and secure in their neighborhoods when a leading Republican candidate calls for their places of worship to be constantly monitored? When another leading candidate is calling for their neighborhoods to be constantly patrolled by law enforcement?
Yes, there is a problem with some American Muslims, especially those of the Nation of Islam. But the Muslims in the United States are different than those of other countries, according a Pew Research poll done two years ago, which interviewed over 38,000 Muslims over five years.
Constant surveillance will not help in defeating terrorism and the leading candidates proposals will only make it worse.
That is not to say that terrorism isn't a real threat. It is and radical Islam needs to be destroyed as an ideology, But we cannot sacrifice what built this country and the ideas we were founded on.
The right to privacy must be protected. We cannot give up liberty for security as it will only lead down into an even stricter surveillance state than the one we have right now. The citizens of the United States cannot allow for the government to take more rights away in the name of protecting us.
James Otis, in 1763, famously argued for five hours against "writs of assistance" which were an over extension of a governmental power which allowed for British authorities to search any premise without a warrant for smuggled goods. He said, "Every one with this writ may be a tyrant; if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may control, imprison, or murder any one within the realm."
Elias J. Atienza is a freshman pursuing his bachelor's degree at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Send him your angry (or friendly) emails at email@example.com
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