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-- either as free people or as slaves.

If they remain self-reliant, they stay free.
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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Losing your privacy

I. Unbearable warrant.

The administration claimed the right to spy on telephone usage record of millions of Americans. Mr Obama states the government has the lawful access under the extended PATRIOT Act (which Mr Obama signed in 2011). Normal search warrant protection is absent - warrants are issued in secret, by the secret FISA court system.

Mr Obama publicly defended his actions explaining the PATRIOT Act innovates a legal principle that only the content of a communication is private, but the fact the communication occurred is public. This is a defective idea. The government gave itself the power to command the cooperation of the telephone company to produce records that are private between you and the telco.

II. Privacy

Privacy is an absolute right - the right of privacy includes public anonymity. The right to privacy makes sense only if you have the power to decide in secret how you wish to conduct your public life, without provoking government curiosity.

Only if a person is reasonably suspected of criminality can the right to privacy be taken away, and then only by a public court order. Note that the right of privacy is lost only when the court action is public, not like the secret action of a FISA court.

We now have technology to track the movement of every person. We have technology that will recognize faces. Combined, those technical abilities make it possible that no one could ever have a private moment.

The right to privacy includes the right to anonymity. The government has no general right to know what you are doing or where you are. Only after there is substantial evidence to show you are a criminal can the government invade your privacy. Invading privacy to prove you are criminal is out of bounds.

III. Consequences

If the standard for government need-to-know is lowered, our freedom will not long endure. Mr Obama invoked his power to know who private citizens are telephoning. He promised transparency in his administration, yet he often is vague. For Mr Obama to invoke PATRIOT so broadly is McCarthyism - he is using the power of government to launch another hunt for enemies of the state.

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