I was watching the most recent House Judiciary Hearings on FISA Oversight. One meme that kept cropping up was politician’s expressing that they find it acceptable that the government is wholesale spying on non-American citizen persons. I understand that much of this was to focus the purpose of the hearing on the NSA’s programs as they relate to American citizens.
However, this position strikes me as against the principals under which our government was founded. I recently re-read the Declaration of Independence. This is one of our foundational documents and gives us a better understanding of the limits our founders believe existed on every government. They understood that there are certain rights that are unalienable and are given by God and have no boundaries.
Governments are formed to preserve these very rights. It seems to me that many of the rights that we hold dear and that are enshrined in our Constitution are unalienable rights given to us by our Creator. This means that American citizens and non-American citizens alike have these rights. Our politicians should not just flippantly state that it is acceptable for our government to spy on the world.
I understand that we are currently engaged in a declared conflict. Wars involve spying. Just because you aren’t born within our borders does not mean that you have no rights to privacy from our government. We do need to protect our citizens from international harms. These harms do not justify a worldwide panopticon.
Furthermore, I am not naive enough to believe that the arrogance of our government somehow evaporates upon our shores. Justification for spying on the world will probably be used for spying on us. In the case of the NSA the difference is merely a keystroke.
Our government began with broad ideals that have been eroded by weak politicians who believe that somehow the current conditions require them to chip away at these rights to keep us safe. What they forget is that we have a government of limited powers and they don’t have the power to chip away at these rights. The often used argument that all three branches of government agree is but a red herring. Our rights exist to protect us from all government no matter whether it is exercised as legislative, judicial, or executive.
Unfortunately, politicians too often give up on these principles in order for temporary gains on policy or electoral advantage. An attack on the Constitution for something you desire is no different than your foes attack on the Constitution for something you abhor.