In a recent New York Times op-ed, Senators Ron Wyden (left, D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (right, D-Colo.) call for an immediate end to the National Security Agency’s (NSA) dragnet collection of the phone records of Americans. In the opening paragraph, the senators explain the basis of their opposition to this unconstitutional program:
[The] framers of the Constitution declared that government officials had no power to seize the records of individual Americans without evidence of wrongdoing, and they embedded this principle in the Fourth Amendment. The bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records — so-called metadata — by the National Security Agency is, in our view, a clear case of a general warrant that violates the spirit of the framers’ intentions. This intrusive program was authorized under a secret legal process by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, so for years American citizens did not have the knowledge needed to challenge the infringement of their privacy rights.
While the spirit of what Wyden and Udall write is correct, they do not go far enough in their denouncement of the NSA’s denial of basic fundamental rights to millions of Americans.
The Fourth Amendment declares that 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.”
Based on reports of the number of domestic phone calls being recorded by the National Security Agency, the Obama administration must have probable cause to suspect millions of us of threatening national security.
According to reports, documents obtained by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that, in a 30-day period in 2013, the NSA recorded data on 124.8 billion phone calls, about three billion of which originated within the United States. A quick Google search reveals the remarkable international scope of the snooping.
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