At SecurityFocus, Mark Rasch, wrote an article entitled, “Protection from prying NSA eyes.”

In today’s world of interconnectivity and needing to trust others with our personal data in order to do business and expedite different things we need to do, protecting that information gets dicey. This is true of all forms of personal data that are stored on computers that are not under our personal control — including personal data like phone records and call content, emails, credit card and banking information, medical records, insurance information, etc. We really need to take very seriously the question, “Whose Data is it anyway?” and who has access to it.

In Mark Rasch’s article, he covers a lot of ground and manages to do it in an easy to read and understandable way. One of the main items he covers is our Citizen rights under the Fourth Amendment.

Many in ‘authority’ — and some US Citizens too — who, maybe out of fear of another 9-11 attack, or ignorance, seem to think that ‘things’ are somehow different now — that Citizen rights are somehow less important than they were years ago. And if you concern yourself with your constitutionally guaranteed rights, there must either be something wrong with you, or you have something to hide.

You’ve heard the old sayings, “If you have nothing to hide, what’s the problem” or “if it will keep the country safe, what’s the problem” or “my conversations are so boring, I’m not worried.”

Of course, Ben Franklin laid it out point blank, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

And lest we think only those here in the US are struggling with such difficult concepts, here’s a link that shows there are others who are struggling with the governmental leanings around the globe since 9-11:

We have been busy being blind, deaf and mute. With few exceptions, Governments around the world passed laws in response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. Without exception, these laws endowed Governments with greater powers to combat this significant threat. Since then, every Government has extended its powers and mandates and created new ones. Few notice that the links to combating terrorism are now few and far between and even then, tenuous at best. Few notice these policy changes at all. Hardly anyone has spoken out.

Being oblivious to these changes has its advantages. We do not have to watch ourselves unlearn prior lessons. We do not have to question the rhetoric promoting the ‘greatest civil liberty of all’, to be protected from fear, to be made safe. We do not have to doubt the promises that, in investing our Governments with great powers, these powers will be used guardedly. Instead, we fall in line with other proletarians and chant the insidious claim that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Others are definitely torn between invasion of privacy and being happy with the efforts to fight terror.

Mark in the SecurityFocus article, probably answers the question best, so I will just quote some of it here:

There are various laws that protect the privacy of telephone records in the United States. First and foremost, there is the Fourth Amendment which provides 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.

For some reason, when this Amendment was drafted in 1791, the drafters left out the terms “telephone records” and “intercepted communications” and “Voice Over Internet Protocol.” Possibly just an 18th Century oversight. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court initially found in 1928 that you can’t “seize” a telephone call, and therefore the Fourth Amendment didn’t apply to phone calls. It wasn’t until 1967 that the Court finally realized that the Constitution protects the rights of privacy of persons, not just places, and therefore warrants were required if you wanted to listen in on the contents of communications.

Sure, there has to be a balance. We certainly don’t want to hamper an investigation that could possibly prevent another 9-11. BUT and this is a big but, it must be done in a constitutional and legal manner. Otherwise, we turn our country into a police state where the Constitution, which guarantees our rights and liberties as Citizens, is worth no more than the paper it was written on. And unfortunately, if you look at history, we have way too many examples of what happens to a country under those conditions.

Mark had an idea about how to mitigate some of this. Here’s what he proposed in the article:

I propose that we open up the super-secret FISA court to allow private citizens or companies that receive requests or demands from the government to demand judicial intervention in a way that would protect national security, and act as a check and balance on any unlimited powers of the Executive Branch.

That way, IF companies (or individuals) are put ‘between a rock and a hard place’ by any governmental agency, they will have some recourse to find out the best legal course of action so they can balance the rights of Citizens with helping protect national security.

Now, if it could be implemented properly, that might just be money (read: tax dollars) well spent and a better balance between the two, or not (many a slip from cup to lip) when congress goes about it’s bill ‘fine tuning’ process. But it might be a good place for open dialog to make sure Citizens’ rights, freedoms and liberties are not put at risk in the process of trying to protect the nation from future attack.

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