In Colonial America, Writs of Assistance were general warrants authorizing British authorities to search businesses and homes, having no limit on the specific place, subject matter, manner or duration of the search. Imagine the fear, knowing “one's government” could come in at any time to rummage through one's affairs or possessions as often as it wished.
The Fourth Amendment made this intimidation illegal: “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.”
Now, 222 years later, “our government” tampers with our electronic correspondence and records it without first handing us a warrant serving notice that our “private effects” will be searched for something specific. Today's surreptitious electronic surveillance is worse than Writs of Assistance because it is clandestine and violates the Fourth Amendment.
Snoop stealthily upon criminals, foreigners or suspected terrorists, but we ordinary Americans have the right to be secure in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” Hand us a warrant based on probable cause, “supported by Oath or affirmation.” Tell us “the place to be searched, the persons or things to be seized” before tampering with our phone records, calls, faxes, emails or Internet activities. This would be as the Fourth Amendment states: reasonable.
Daniel Paul Zajdel
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.