Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Nothing to see in this mailbox, I swear

Did anyone else see the news story yesterday that the fine print of some postal legistlation signed last month gives the government the right to read your mail without a warrant? Add that to the wire tapping and bank records and why don't we save a step and have a federal agent move in with every American family? Better to keep an eye on all of us first hand.

The wire tapping issue came up during the last semester I taught at SIUE and we discussed it as a class one evening. I was shocked (appalled even) that only one person in the entire class thought there was anything wrong with allowing the government to do things like this without a warrant. One girl said, "Well, if I'm not doing anything wrong, why would I care? They can listen to my phone calls if they want." What? Really??? Unfortunately, I know too many people who feel the same way as my student. And that apathy has translated into the whittling away of our most prized civil liberties.

Whatever happened to privacy, reasonable doubt, due process? It's an over used quote lately, but I think Ben Franklin said it best, "They that would give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Moves like these in the name of "security" may or may not turn up valuable information, but there's a correct way to obtain that information when necessary. Through a judge and warrant order. The other popular argument, that time-constraints might make a warrant impossible if the information is to be obtained quickly, seems like a very rare scenario.

Who's to say the government would even be keeping an eye on real terrorists. Take the number of people who have been released from Gitmo after the powers that be realized, "Oops, you aren't a terrorist after all...our bad. Sucks that you've been imprisoned for three years." Something tells me the wire taps, bank records, and mail reading net would be cast even wider. Unchecked power in the government threatens even the culture of dissent that America was built on. "Agree, shut up, or face the consequences" isn't the kind of society I want to live in.

So what if I'm not really doing anything wrong? So what if all the governement would find out from checking my collective records is that I have an ungodly number of rollover minutes, barely have enough cash to finance my lifestyle let alone anti-government organizations, and get nothing more exciting than Victoria's Secret catalogues in the mail? Forgive me if based on its track record, I want a second opinion on what this administration deems a "good reason" to invade a citizen's privacy.


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