The big jungle cats who lapped up the milk for the NSA have let out a startled meow. We scarcely know the scope of their violation of client trust. Congress has let out the usual purr that discussion is welcome. In Latin, this script translates to peto abyssus.
The government engages extensive surveillance against peaceful Americans. We are known to be vastly peaceful amongst ourselves for more than a century now. But the tentacles of PRISM function under a false flag operational banner of national interest. This is all about ‘catching terrorists’. It is a broad term. But it might include your neighbour down the street who just planted a row of turnips after blasting her way through a passionate and private email to a friend. We have less right to privacy and our personal papers than the average penal colony. Jefferson is in PRISM. And so are we.
What are the guarantees given to the American people?
Amendment IV: “The 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 probably cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Some would opine that Alexander Graham Bell changed everything. If he just had not come up with the idea for a telephone. But his invention changed nothing regarding constitutional rights. In Katz v United States (1967), the Supreme Court ruled that a search had occurred when the government wiretapped a telephone booth. The SCOTUS ruled that a search occurs when: a person expects privacy in the thing searched, and society believes that expectation to be reasonable. The court reasoned that Mr Charles Katz had an expectation that his phone booth conversation would not be broadcast to the wider world. Society believed the expectation was reasonable.
So here are the pertinent questions. Are we secure in our homes in the manner dictated by the US Constitution? Is it a reasonable expectation that we may retain a modicum of privacy within our homes and surrounded by our digital papers? Are laptops or desktops and the papers and thoughts contained therein secure as envisioned in the Bill of Rights? If the government wishes access to the aforementioned is there a reasonable expectation that in every single case the court must be petitioned to seek a warrant? Must probable cause be presented and the merits of each case be considered by a judge? If unreasonable search and seizure occur within our homes can the criminals be prosecuted to the full extent of the law? This is constitutional breach. Can we dismantle the playpen of anti-constitutionalists who prey on innocent citizens? Or do we believe that communications may be as closely monitored as that of inmates at any given penal facility in our nation?
PRISM embraces a Napoleonic code in which all are presumed guilty as opposed to the American standard of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. Problematic is that you may not yet be aware that you are ‘guilty’. Guilty of free speech. Guilty of passionate patriotism. Or merely guilty of doing some excellent investigative research on Benghazi. The new forensics is not based on threatening actions that create the need for a warrant. The new forensics involve analysts who probe your deepest thoughts, seek out your greatest vulnerabilities, and create a profile. It drills more deeply into the bedrock of your personality than can be known by your closest companions. This is akin to a strip search and cavity search minus a warrant. The government can seize vast amounts of personal information and papers from within your home. This illegal access will be used to construct the dossier that may one day be offered to further alienate your constitutional rights. The gloved finger is now inside your home. Forget America, a beacon of freedom.
This abuse of federal power can lead to blackmail of political enemies on a scale that could have only been imagined by J Edgar and Lyndon B. I must ponder the obvious: are members of the Congressional body who support PRISM already trapped in the net? Many have an old skeleton in the closet. PRISM can rattle the bones to the public. Why does Speaker of the House John Boehner support this programme? Have his family bones suffered blackmail?
My forefathers never envisioned the US as a police state. The US was never meant to be a surveillance state superimposed over the rights of a vastly peaceful American public. The US is not so much a place as she is a blessing. This great blessing flows from the ever expanding freedoms that were initially bestowed on us by men who proudly called themselves ‘Americans’.
I have relentless trust in the mechanics of democracy and precepts of human liberty. As a woman who has invoked an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, the oath is of an eternal nature. It is embedded within my lips.
Who are these alien ‘Americans’ within the PRISM programme?
When the United States Constitution was penned, it was with an understanding of the unique capstone of governance: human liberty. The beguiling message of catching terrorists is insupportable in light of the wording of the fourth amendment. PRISM is a gross violation of civil liberties. This spell cast across the landscape of our right to privacy and to our personal lives is tyrannical voodoo. It preys on our fears. This assault on the fourth amendment is deeply immoral. Let me repeat. It is deeply immoral to spy on your own citizens.
Those involved in illegal search and seizure of our papers are committing treason against the Republic. Let the dictates of the fourth amendment be adhered to in entirety. The NSA must be required to petition the court and present probable cause in seeking a warrant. Every damn time. We must demand an end to what was birthed during the Bush administration.
Abyssus Abyssum invocat. Hell calls to hell.
The writer is a freelance journalist and author of the novel Arsenal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org