The truth shall keep us free
Which is more dangerous to personal liberty in a free society — a renegade who tells an inconvenient truth about government lawbreaking or government officials who lie about what the renegade revealed?
That's the core issue in the great public debate this summer as Americans come to the realization that their government has concocted a system of laws violative of the natural law that are profoundly repugnant to the Constitution and shrouded in secrecy.
The liberty of which I write is the right to privacy — the right to be left alone. The Framers jealously and zealously guarded this right by imposing upon government agents intentionally onerous burdens before letting them invade it. They did so in the Fourth Amendment, using language that permits the government to invade that right only in the narrowest of circumstances.
The linchpin of those circumstances is “probable cause” of evidence of crime in “the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” If the government cannot tell a judge specifically what evidence of crime it is looking for and precisely from whom, a judge may not issue a search warrant, and privacy, the natural human yearning that comes from within all of us, will remain where it naturally resides — outside the government's reach.
Congress is the chief culprit here, because it has enacted laws that have lowered the constitutional bar that the feds must meet in order for judges to issue search warrants. And it has commanded that this be done in secret.
After we learned that the feds are spying on nearly all Americans, that they possess our texts and emails and have access to our phone conversations, Gen. Keith Alexander, who runs the NSA, was asked under oath whether his spies have the ability to read emails and listen to telephone calls. He answered, “No, we don't have that authority .”
Since that deft and misleading act, former NSA staffers have told Fox News that the feds can read any email and listen to any phone call.
President Obama is smarter than his generals. He smoothly told a friendly interviewer and while not under oath that the feds are not listening to our phone calls or reading our emails. He, of course, could not claim that they lack the ability to do so, because we all now know that he knows they can.
The Edward Snowden revelations continue to cast light on the feds when they prefer darkness. He spoke the truth. Knowing what would likely befall him for his truthful revelations and making them nevertheless was an act of heroism and patriotism. Thomas Paine once reminded the Framers that the highest duty of a patriot is to protect his countrymen from their government. We need patriots to do that now more than ever.
Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel.