Ronald Reagan taught us that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
But lately, it seems that many Americans have forgotten this important lesson. And nowhere is the lack of knowledge and common sense of the American populace more apparent than on Twitter.
You see, I’ve been following a feed from @_nothingtohide. And the responses almost bring me to tears.
These fellow citizens of ours don’t care about their constitutionally protected freedoms because they don’t understand them or the consequences of losing them. And if you don’t care about a freedom, you’re sure to lose it.
There’s always a power-hungry person intent on stealing your patrimony.
Here are a few of the samples of tweets that break my heart:
Jason Best tells us, “What do you people think about the whole NSA/phone issue? I honestly don’t care myself. Seems like the only people complaining are people that are either paranoid or criminals.”
Jade Elise says, “I really don’t care if the #NSA keeps tabs on me. Probably because I’m a person who sits naked in their apartment with the curtains open.”
The twitter handle Liberal Phenom adds, “I’m not worried abt NSA. Got nothing to hide & want to stay safe.”
These are just three of thousands of Americans who sincerely believe they have nothing to worry about. They don’t think they’ve committed a crime; and therefore, they’re happy to let the NSA, Barack Obama, the CIA, and the FBI know their whereabouts, personal email, text conversations, and more.
A person with the twitter handle “Ramifications goes farther.” He/she basically calls those of us with privacy concerns nuts by writing, “you fools need to understand the #NSA is doing cyber surveillance for your own good; they don’t care how many times you jack off a day.”
I get it, “Ramifications”. None of us want to be blown up by al Qaeda.
But I also think that the current practices of this administration are far more insidious than these naïve commenters on Twitter understand.
Heck, the actual operational specifics of Prism and other NSA programs are still mostly classified. We have little knowledge of how the government snoop-machine really works. They claim to not listen to cellphone calls, but can we be sure? Are machines listening to the calls and reporting back to humans? They claim to not be reading emails, but is this also a lie? Only the most ignorant believe the government doesn’t lie.
Americans, or citizens of any free society, have a right to know what information their government is collecting about them. And we may simply look at history to understand why.
The Founding Fathers Agree
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads: “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 probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Today, our email and documents saved in “the cloud” are the modern equivalent of our “papers and effects.” We have the right to expect that they’ll be protected from “unreasonable searches and seizures.”
In fact, this legal precedent is older than even the U.S. Constitution. It goes back to English legal doctrine. Sir Edward Coke, in the Semayne’s case in 1604, argued: “The house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence as for his repose.”
From the time of this case, even the king recognized that he didn’t possess unchecked authority to invade his subjects’ homes. The case solidified the doctrine that government agents are allowed to conduct searches and seize property only under the particular circumstances when their intentions are lawful and a warrant has been issued.
I’m not happy to let these long-protected and universally-understood civil liberties disappear with nary a whimper. And even if I have nothing to hide, I refuse to sacrifice freedoms for which generations of Americans fought and died just because I’m too lazy to stand up and fight.
Is this a clear example of Orwell’s doublethink/doublespeak (cognitive dissonance)? “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” -Benjamin Franklin
This article originally appeared at CapitolHillDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.