No Warrant? No Problem.

Whatever Happened To The Fourth Amendment?

Amy Dalness
2 min read
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Nearly every agreement—credit card applications, rental agreements, e-mail account sign-ups—has a privacy statement that requires approval. The U.S. government has a privacy agreement, too. When you become a citizen, by birth or legal process, you sign up. It’s called the Fourth Amendment. Unfortunately, the principles enshrined in that portion of the Bill of Rights seem to be becoming a thing of the past.

In December 2005, the
New York Times reported that months after the attacks on 9/11, the Bush administration and the National Security Agency (NSA) began a program to eavesdrop on American citizens and others inside the U.S. without court-approved warrants. The justification the Bush administration cited? The U.S. Constitution.

The Fourth Amendment is pretty straightforward. It states that people have the right to be secure in their houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches unless a warrant has been issued based on probable cause that a crime has been committed. The Bush administration has insisted that only those with known or suspected links to al Qaeda and other known terrorist organizations are under surveillance. OK, Mr. President, then why no warrant? Being a suspected terrorist is sufficient probable cause. There is even a special court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act with the sole task of overseeing the NSA’s and the executive and judicial branches’ requests to perform such information-gathering acts as wiretapping. FISA was created to protect Americans from illegal domestic surveillance but, according to Bush, FISA was just too slow. Legality was just too slow. Democracy was just too slow. So much for checks and balances.

USA Today reported in May of this year that the NSA has amassed a database of phone calls made within the U.S. Major companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth have reportedly given the NSA information from their clients to help aid national security and to “create a database of every call ever made” within the United States (not the actual content of each call, but when and to whom the call was made). No warrant. No probable cause. Did you read the privacy agreement when you signed up for your latest Verizon contract?
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