Yet Another Constitutional Scholar Explains Why NSA Surveillance Is Unconstitutional
from the worth-reading dept
By banning unreasonable "seizures" of a person's "papers," the Fourth Amendment clearly protects what we today call "informational privacy." Rather than seizing the private papers of individual citizens, the NSA and CFPB programs instead seize the records of the private communications companies with which citizens do business under contractual "terms of service." These contracts do not authorize data-sharing with the government. Indeed, these private companies have insisted that they be compelled by statute and warrant to produce their records so as not to be accused of breaching their contracts and willingly betraying their customers' trust.Barnett explains some of the history of the 4th Amendment, and how it was initially designed to allow juries of citizens to determine whether or not a search was reasonable, because the Founders of the country did not trust judges to "jealously guard the liberties of the people." However, over time that's consistently shifted, as law enforcement officials were made immune from civil suits and judges increasingly had power over whether or not such searches were reasonable. Further, he notes how hoovering up pretty much all metadata is quite similar to (I'd argue, in many ways much worse than) the "general warrants" issued by the Britsh crown, which colonial America was trying to get away from with things like the 4th Amendment.
However, he says this goes beyond just the 4th Amendment, but implicates the 5th Amendment as well:
Still worse, the way these programs have been approved violates the Fifth Amendment, which stipulates that no one may be deprived of property "without due process of law." Secret judicial proceedings adjudicating the rights of private parties, without any ability to participate or even read the legal opinions of the judges, is the antithesis of the due process of law.He goes on to point out that the secrecy of these programs makes it all that much worse, and unconstitutional on a different level as well, where the government is supposed to serve the people, rather than the other way around:
The secrecy of these programs makes it impossible to hold elected officials and appointed bureaucrats accountable. Relying solely on internal governmental checks violates the fundamental constitutional principle that the sovereign people must be the ultimate external judge of their servants' conduct in office. Yet such judgment and control is impossible without the information that such secret programs conceal. Had it not been for recent leaks, the American public would have no idea of the existence of these programs, and we still cannot be certain of their scope.It seems worth noting that many of these reasons are in addition to reasons that others have presented as well. And, yet, to date, we've seen no one in the government offer a serious rationale for why the programs are constitutional in any way, other than hand-waving at a single 1979 Supreme Court ruling about the "third party doctrine," which requires a real stretch to pretend that allowed the kind of dragnet surveillance happening today.