Published: Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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
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