Crucial attempts to rein in government spying failed Thursday, guaranteeing that the privacy of more innocent Americans will be violated.
I haven’t passed the bar, but I know a little bit about the 4th Amendment. Have you read it lately? “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,” it states in plain English, “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.”
That’s all of it.
The landline in your house? The government needs a warrant to tap it. The letters in your mailbox? The government needs a warrant to read ‘em. It’s like the Framers said: probable cause is required.
Yet a text or an email, even one sent from your bed, is treated differently — it’s afforded much less protection from government snoops, even though we’re increasingly going all digital in our communication.
Senator Rand Paul raised that question Thursday on the Senate floor. “We became lazy and haphazard in our vigilance,” he told his colleagues during a debate about government surveillance. “We allowed Congress and the courts to diminish our Fourth Amendment protection, particularly when our papers were held by third parties. I think most Americans would be shocked to know that the Fourth Amendment does not protect your records if they’re banking, Internet or Visa records. A warrant is required to read your snail mail and to tap your phone, but no warrant is required to look at your email, text or your Internet searches. They can be read without a warrant. Why is a phone call more deserving of privacy protection than an email?”