The Worst Scandal of Our Time is the Disappearance of our Fourth Amendment Rights as Citizens

fourth-amendmentA lot of people are shocked and outraged over the leaked report which show the government has been collecting data on web activity as well as demanding phone records from companies like Verizon and others. While it is very unlikely, and extremely difficult for the government to actually listen to cell phone conversations, text and call logs are easy to obtain. I worked for Sprint for 5 years and have a pretty extensive knowledge of how the industry works.

Even though I’m quite sure the surveillance agencies are probably not interested in your 2 AM text messages or Facebook chats with your ex during a moment of drunken weakness, it is still troubling that they have access to services you signed up for with at least somewhat of an expectation of privacy. In fact, it could very well be considered a breach of contract depending on the agreement you signed when you got that shiny new tracking device — I mean smartphone that you plug so much private information into on a daily basis.

Regardless of all of that, we can’t blame the government for doing something we gave them the power to do. I hate to sound like a “political hipster” who complains constantly about how both parties are the same, but in this case, they are both guilty. There are a lot of politicians worshiped by both sides that have repeatedly voted for renewing the Patriot Act, and enabling an erosion of our civil liberties in a slow slide to an Orwellian-lite society where anything and everything we do could be monitored, at any given time.

Again, we gave them this power. We’ve settled for politicians who’ve pandered to the fringe elements of their base, the people who show up at the polls and decide primaries. We’ve voted based on promises that they’d protect our reproductive rights on the left, or Second Amendment rights on the right, while they’ve actively undermined our Fourth Amendment rights from both sides. We have collectively stuck our heads in the sand when the party of our preference was calling the shots, only to hypocritically howl about it when the other folks are in charge.

Do I think some guy in a sea of cubicles inside a secret building somewhere is reading every word I text to my girlfriend as we have quirky conversations involving squirrels, gluten-free cupcakes and being ADD? No. I’m sure there are other more interesting things for them to review. Do I think the government has the right to know where I am at and what toilet paper I am using at any given time without a warrant from a civilian judge? Absolutely not.

This comes on the heels of the Supreme Court ruling that police can collect your DNA if you’ve been arrested but not convicted of a crime, for placement in a federal DNA database. Funny how the gun nuts freak out about a nonexistent national gun registry, but don’t seem to have any issues with a national DNA registry which will include the DNA of law-abiding citizens who were never convicted of a single crime.

Which begs the ultimate question, “What exactly happened to our Fourth Amendment rights?” We gave them away, that’s what happened. We’ve given in to apathy in the name of “national security,” and as a result we’ve seen the Fourth Amendment slowly disappear from existence with help from all three branches of government.

Look, I want my government to do what it can to protect me from all enemies and criminals, both foreign and domestic — but not at the cost of giving up my civil liberties granted and promised by the Bill of Rights. I have no problem with a federal surveillance agency accessing my records, so long as they have a real and probable cause, and get a warrant to do so. The fact that the Patriot Act has seemingly nullified our Fourth Amendment rights as United States citizens is both concerning and downright scary, and if you think one party is more to blame than the other for this monstrosity of government overreach… well, you simply haven’t been paying attention.


Facebook comments

  • Adam

    Excellent piece! We have no one to blame but ourselves for electing people who support those kinds of actions. That’s the odd beauty of our system. If you don’t like it, do something about it.

  • Johnny G

    Call Ron Paul whatever…but he is a STRICT Constitutionalist….and most of you voted against having a Constitution…you don’t even know what you have done.
    and DONE is the new word.

    • OohRah Mama

      You’ve just committed the type of error that allows what the article is about, to continue. Baloney, don’t tell me I voted against having a Constitution. What a pompous, pretentious supposition. And as for Ron Paul, the thing I disagree with Libertarians on is that many of us realize that Government is necessary, and it’s not necessarily evil. We do need regulations that protect our air, our water, our food, that build & maintain infrastructure. Not everything should be privatized, especially our justice system. And private industry should not be allowed to run rampant without some sort of governmental oversight. So let’s facilitate a conversation on how to fix this instead of preaching on others’ behavior about which you actually know little.

  • deb

    Well, I know republicans started it, but all the democrats that supported it helped it be. And that’s something we the people must note, and work to change. What say people? New parties that accually give a shit about the fourth ammendment or what?

    • penskesouth2

      Actually….it started with the Clinton Admin…..The Patriot Act is actually ‘The Omnibus Anti-Terrorism Act of 1995 which was laughed at and ridiculed by ‘Pubs, called ‘paranoid, overreaching, and unnecessary’… was then watered-down and passed the following year……fast forward to 20012002, the ‘Pubs claim it as their own (the non-watered down version) and change the name and proclaim Clinton ‘soft’ on Terrorism…..So yes, ‘Crats ARE as guilty, but it’s the ‘Pubs that are the dirtbags in all of this…and the MOST untrustworthy with this kind of authority.

  • Matthew Reece

    Voting will never solve problems like this because no matter who you vote for, the state remains in power.

  • Brian Hundley

    I am one to believe if you are doing nothing have nothing to worry about! I can care less about my privacy if it stops a terroist attack.

    • Richard Canada

      That is absolutely wrong. When the Government goes on a fishing expedition, especially when fueled by an ambitious prosecutor, a simple statement that you never gave a moment of thought would be something wrong can get you caught in the middle of an investigation and even arrested.

      • sfwmson

        as I just posted to another person: one day your ‘nothing wrong’ will be ‘something wrong’ to some body and then you will be suspect.

      • Kacey

        I still don’t get this- if I don’t make statements threatening someone or something–their fishing expeditions turn up nothing. And…if someone does say something threatening–someone SHOULD look at it to find out whether it is a joke or a real threat. Fine by me if it saves lives. I work in a school where a parent got investigated because he put on facebook that he would do something violent to the school. (See there- if I don’t use his scary words- I stay of the radar) He was all angry and said he had the right of free speech. I say one month after Sandy Hook you should be smarter than that and not threaten to hurt children or staff members e at your kids’ school. Especially if you are FB friends with staff at that school.

      • Jeff Camire

        It’s Funny how he says that that was a violation of his free speech.Even though the first amendment actually says you can be investigated for making threats to harm someone,and if you threaten the pres. put in jail immediatly just for saying it even if you were only joking.What happened to him isn’t a violation of free speech.

      • Anthony Buzzin

        you are Canadian, u don’t understand American freedom/

      • kacey

        Do you mean Richard is Canadian? I am an all American heartland public school teacher with roots back to New England in the late 1500s 🙂 And hopefully, the children and I have the freedom to work and learn in a safe school without some angry parent threatening to come in blazing ready to hurt people. Again- avoiding his trigger words. They were intense. Anyway, I hope you were joking. Part of my curriculum is to teach rights, responsibilities, US govt, constitution, etc. And no one gets to use “freedom of speech” to threaten to hurt school staff and not expect to get investigated in this day and age.

      • J. Cast

        What American freedom? there are law and rules for everything….the whole freedom thing came when America was free from Britain…..

      • Richard Canada

        You look at my name and assume that I am not American? I am pleased to disappoint you. I am a natural born American of mixed heritage. My Irish ancestry predates the Civil War and my English heritage predates the Revolutionary War. My German heritage is a bit more recent, late 1800s. I was born in Illinois and now live and work in Texas. Your assumption about my citizenship shows how simple things like my name can be interpreted to justify the invalid claims someone wishes to make. The Government does this on a regular basis to justify their behavior.
        When it comes to such public forums as FaceBook and comment streams following articles, there is no expectation of privacy. Also, while we have the right to “free speech” there is no language in the Constitution that protects us from the consequences of exercising that right.
        What I am concerned about is the Government data mining massive amounts of data to find some nugget that gives them “cause” to arrest and investigate, then after your life has been turned upside down and you have lost everything, the Government says okay you are free to go, and they may even say sorry for the inconvenience. If prosecutors think they have enough circumstantial evidence to get a patriotic jury to convict, then they will use all the power and money available from their Government agency to make the case. Many cases have been tried to get the conviction with no real effort to seek justice.
        The 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution states “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.” Bringing this to current technology, this would include such things as email, private IM, cloud file storage, or any other media where the average individual should have a reasonable expectation that their papers and effects would be protected. Data mining of metadata can be used to create a case for “probable cause”, even when there is no real case to be made.

    • Anthony Buzzin

      They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.- Benjamin Franklin

    • Free

      Your belief is wrong…… I have never done anything wrong, never stole, never hurt nobody, never commited a crime and I was still a victim of police brutality… So your philosophy is lost.

    • SyntheticPhylum

      So, you have never, in YOUR ENTIRE LIFE, had anything negative to say about the government or its policies? Not once? Not even a tiny bit? Well, that makes you a RARE individual, indeed… or a liar, which is far more likely. I don’t think it’s too unlikely to state that most of us, even Super-Mega-Hyper-Patriots, have had SOMETHING negative to say about the government or its policies. Now, what if that negative comment you made in a forum post got in the hands of a government operative in a cubicle somewhere, going over the data mining logs for that period, and decided that YOUR statement was a risk to this country? Yeah, I know it’s a ridiculous and paranoid example, but that is what we’ve opened ourselves up to, ever since the PATRIOT act became law. It has the POTENTIAL to become a new kind of
      McCarthyism. I’m not saying we’re there yet, but the potential is definitely there.

  • Talia

    In a way a DNA registry would be useful even for law abiding citizens. What if you are kidnapped – missing – feared dead? The police would have a way to track you. My daughter’s DNA is already on a registry done by an insurance company for the kidnapped scenario…Have the data on hand – just in case

    • Anthony Buzzin

      why not just put a gps on her?

    • Dave

      Yeah, or someone who has been a law abiding citizen their whole life could be convicted of a crime because some of their DNA was found at a crime scene… Nevermind that they weren’t their even remotely close to the time of the crime…

      • Sensei21

        Then how would their DNA be there? Government plant? Oh! Maybe they followed her for six weeks and placed a bug in her house then had her kidnapped by aliens! Afterwards they played it off as a kidnapping and her brother decides to dedicate his life to finding proof of aliens.
        Maybe that’s the X-Files but you know.

    • Sensei21

      I’m more bothered that this article didn’t actually say ANYTHING that was wrong with the DNA registry, just stated it and walked away. It could have some real benefits, especially given that many breakthroughs in medicine have been through random DNA tests via blood or saliva. Maybe compiling this all together could have some benefits.

      • Matthew

        6 words:
        False positive rate. False negative rate.

  • John Cross

    What does “collecting data on web activity” even mean? 99% of web activity is in the pubic sphere so there is no expectation of privacy. Be specific when you start whining about civil liberties because we don’t have time to get upset everytime someone you think is a narc is looking your way. Yes, civil liberties are important, but stop fearmongering about stupid stuff, really. Just wasted 2 minutes of my life reading this idiotic piece.

    • Mark

      dude, you are missing the point here! 99% of web activity is in the public sphere, but not in one place. “Security conscious” reasons can result negative outcomes like bad guys access everyone’s information at one place – who can grantee you government can’t be hacked?

  • me

    Get over it, I guess all you liberals out there would rather have more bombings or airplanes crashing into buildings. If your not doing anything wrong no one will notice or care.

    • sfwmson

      dear “me”: that’s an excellent point, but you need to extrapolate and remember you may be doing nothing wrong NOW. But ‘they’ can decide, eventually your doing nothing wrong is suddenly wrong. You down load porn? You only look at websites with kittens? One day that could be considered wrong by somebody and then you are no longer doing nothing wrong. It’s a slippery slope.

      • Sensei21

        My only real issue with your statement is that those particular things you mentioned would NEVER be illegal, at least not in our lifetimes. Adult films are only becoming more accepted as they should be and kittens? What could anyone possibly say about that?
        While I’m not entirely sold on this “data” collection, i this actually news to anyone? Do you all buy things with government controlled cash and use electronics that are at some point filtered/controlled by a government agency and NOT think they can keep track of all of these things? if they want to watch what I’m doing, fine. Yes I’d like for a probable cause to be required and that is what I’m pushing for, as well as retaining the right to a fair trial, but I’m not entirely threatened or concerned that they can monitor what I’m doing. If things like viewing adult and cat sites (no combination hopefully) do become illegal, we are going to have much bigger concerns than “aw my internet is being monitored” in most scenarios.

        In the end, if you aren’t doing anything that is currently illegal, then you need not worry. If something becomes illegal, then fight that for everything you are in order to right that wrong if you feel the need to do so. There are organizations and people out there that can help in these situations. We live in a very connected and fast society. Besides as someone pointed out already, much of the internet is generally public aside from a few social sites that can be accessed legally by the government if there is probable cause.
        Basically, just don’t do anything illegal online and don’t say anything silly or childish that might raise a “terroristic” flag.

      • Cherylln

        Tell that to Marissa Alexander who is facing 25 years in prison for NOT shooting someone in Florida. Tell that to her three children. She didn’t do anything illegal. Just shot her gun through the ceiling to her boyfriend who broke into her apartment/house. No one was hurt . No one was killed.

    • me too

      Typical conservative. No government except when it comes to intrusive government–women’s reproductive rights, warrantless surveillance, and the expansion of the American empire.

      • Sensei21

        Generalizing a bit?
        Of course that is the stance of many Republicans from what I’ve seen. Not all, but many.

    • Cherylln

      Blah, blah, blah. Republicans are boring and always copy each other. Blah blah blah.

  • sfwmson

    they already know what kind of toilet paper you use and how much and where you bought it. Your grocery shopping card tells them a LOT about you and you habits.

  • KyVetforMedicalMJ

    Thank the war on drugs for this one.

  • subscriber2

    I am amazed by the number of commenters here who seem so willing to give up a Constitutionally guaranteed right.

  • Joshua Larney

    I think it is absolutely wrong to take someone’s DNA without a warrant that establishes probable cause. Do we really want to trust that peoples DNA won’t end up where they have never been. Not everyone in law enforcement or the judicial system is trust worthy. I would rather give my trust to the due process of a warrant that would establish why my DNA is needed.

  • Jim Logan

    My caller ID shows that I have received no phone calls from anonymous robodialers or boiler rooms since this past. Monday morning, when I received three. Perhaps the governments announcement that they are tracking these calls has put a damper on them, or perhaps it is too soon to proclaim that they have ended. Law enforcement has always had the right to search vehicles on the highway once they are pulled over for even the most minor traffic violations. Why should the source of obvious malicious harassing phone calls whose purpose might be for extortion or to determne when my house is unoccupied or to deliver thinly veiled threats be protected from exposure any more than the records of a trip to Columbus, OH, to attend a wedding?

  • ron

    You are out of line on the privacy issue. I suggest you talk to a lawyer and find out the origins and what your privacy rights actually consist of as against the government. I think the privacy you want greatly exceeds what the Constitution guarantees. Like freedom of speech, the right of privacy is neither absolute nor limitless. In short, you cannot give away what you never had.

  • Jim Logan

    The fourth amendment protects us in our homes and in our person. There is no guarantee in the constitution that we have the right to deliver any message to anyone anywhere without there being some expectation on our part that the recipient has the right to know who said that. On the other hand, how can it ever be appropriate to quote a statement that we have deemed to be inappropriate and then reveal the source of that statement only because we want others to know that not only the statement is inappropriate but that the source itself is inappropriate? When I say anything and someone wants to know who said that, I like to say, “I said that. Didn’t you see my lips moving?”

  • caz

    of all of that, we can’t blame the government for doing something we
    gave them the power to do. I hate to sound like a “political hipster”
    who complains constantly about how both parties are the same, but in
    this case, they are both guilty….That comment right there is false,
    the Obama admin has expaned the Patriot act and used a blanket
    survailance against us, something that has (to the best of EVERYONES
    knowledge ) never been done til Obama….needless to say I stopped reading right
    there, NEXT…

  • caz

    It appears that freedom of speech here on this site is subject to group thinking…I say it again. It was Obama who expanded the program using the sweeping surveillance tact, AT least tell the truth in your smog…um, blog. Tell it like it is….or at least research what you think you know

    • Sensei21

      Your point in this is…? To place blame for no reason on a SINGLE man who is more of a title holder than an individual decision maker?
      Please, push your campaign somewhere else.


    Nothing new about this. Does not anyone remember when Bush signed a document in 2001 – It is called the Patriot Act. Wow – not much in the memory department are we?

  • FrugalFreak

    the great thing is we the citizens have the power within ourselves to repeal the patriot act and elect candidate who will restore full rights of the 4th amendment. Don’t vote for any that aren’t dedicated to doing that.

  • Ericaann

    Most times when you SIGN or AGREE to those TERMS AND CONDITIONS NO ONE READS… It will say that they will comply with COURT ORDERS to give whatever they warrant. Such as Verizons T&C’s Say quote “We may disclose information that individually identifies our customers or identifies customer devices in certain circumstances, such as: to comply with valid legal process including subpoenas, court orders or search warrants, and as otherwise authorized by law;”
    So maybe people should start reading what they consent to!

    • Sensei21

      Lovely point! Many forget that damn near everything we sign away on has that consent form in the terms, yet who really wants to read all of that? No one does, but then they are upset when those terms are used against them under the assumption that THEY actually read something they signed for.

  • Doug

    This situation is due to American’s fear. We can blame our leaders all we want, but we freak the fuck out every time any little blip of something happens. Tornadoes and hurricanes will (2001 notwithstanding) kill more Americans than terrorists. Car crashes kill way more than the wettest jihadist dream ever. But when something like the Boston bombing happens our country goes on lock down for weeks. The same with liberals and gun nuts. We are still a democracy and if we don’t like our leaders we do have to fundamentally blame ourselves, and ask what else we want out of society.

  • Quinn Stilletto

    Americans gave up their right to privacy at the dawn of the age of technology. There are numerous private companies who make billions of dollars collecting the information of every individual who presents a credit card, store membership card or uses a cell phone. This information is sold to anyone wishing to expand a consumer base. Data bases keep track of every item bought in every store and the names and addresses of the individuals who buy them. Each time a person clicks a mouse to visit a website, that information is farmed and sold to any enterprise willing to pay for it. Privacy is a thing of the past, Americans gave it up voluntarily. Companies which sell products and services by phone regularly sell the phone numbers of their customers to independent advertising companies who specialize in mass mailings and canvassing. 60 Minutes did a feature about an international agency charged with the task of eavesdropping on every communicating device on the planet more than twenty years ago. This is not news.

  • Avarice

    It’s ILLEGAL for anyone in the government to pursue information about a U.S. person without extensive permission from FISA and in accordance with E.O.12333 (google is your friend). Logistically, how many people do you think it would take to try and monitor every phone call involving a U.S person; 100? 1000? 100000? The purpose, as given by a speech by POTUS is to quickly tabulate the metadata concerning calls; length, location of Tx and RX, etc. Even IF (and it’s a BIG IF) there’s cause to possibly investigate a U.S. Person, the issue is taken before a court that rules whether it warrants investigation or not.

    • Sensei21

      Sources? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but I’d like to see where you got your info if possible. I’ve said it before that the government can’t literally monitor everyone in the US. There’s what, 350 million people here? It’s impossible to monitor that entirely.

  • Fed Up

    If they don’t do it and someone is planning harm to our country, people will complain that the government didn’t do enough to protect us. If they do it they complain. Never going to make everyone happy, ever.

  • And yet those of us that were saying look at what they are doing we’re criticized by the rest as nuts and conspiracy theorists. Maybe from now on we can all protect the bill of rights as a whole and not just the parts we like.

  • Charles Vincent

    I am not part of that we the author referred to in this article and I sort of resent the implication considering the original vote record on the patriot act and I believe that each renewal has had people that did indeed dissent to the patriot act. I also object to government that violates any of the civil liberties we enjoy. And I have frequently voted against politicians that are in favor of bills that violate those rights. The problem is the people that keep approving of this epoliticiand and the politician that don’t read those obnoxiously long bills before voting to pass them.

  • John M Moros

    I have NEVER supported the so called “wars on terror”, the president associated with it, I was vehemently opposed to the rape of our civil rights in the “patriot” act, against the loss of every freedom that that clan brought down on us….I support President Obama, I feel that he is our champion, although he carries on his power and what that entails…..the whole (anti) patriotic mess the cheney bush gang of f troop forced us to relish sickens me….to every soul that supported that mess…[email protected]#k you!….all of the noise seeping from the bleachers is just static to take our minds off of the real issue…the IMF and World Bank hijacking our economy and every economy there for the taking…the end result will be no middle class and a rich percent with all of the loot….I resent loosing any of my freedoms promised to me from the Constitution…..we should never have lost any of them…the minute this plan began taking shape, we lost the “war on terror”….I have ardently supported the left and ideals of a democratic party in power….I will be elated as the republican party and their imbecilic drones ;with their stupid teabags hanging from their hats gets left behind in their third world glory until they die off and live for the day I have my Nation back….

  • leemd46

    We are so accepting of our commercial usage being inspected front back and center by marketers that we are just cast a blind eye to the government “doing its thing.”

  • Albert Ross

    messed up.

  • mrtoycrazy

    The Patriot Act was signed into law as a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th.9/11 was a conspiracy to rally us to war for money, oil, power, and control . All in the plan for NWO,

  • SpEcHiDe

    when you give someone the power to do something, it is the responsibility of the power-holder to exercise control of that power. If the holder does not have that capability then . . . .