Steadily escalating is the program of warrantless wiretapping of millions of American’s personal, electronic communications, which began under the Bush administration. This mass dragnet of personal email messages, phone calls, and Internet searches is now being done with a virtual blank check from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FIS) courts, which were originally created in 1978 to assure that, in gathering foreign intelligence, the government would not abridge the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans.
The Obama administration has just announced its intention to make it easier to wiretap Internet communications that use encryption such as Blackberry transmissions, social networks like Facebook, and direct peer to peer transmissions like Skype. The Justice Department is also now seeking to get a federal appeals court to overturn a ruling prohibiting the clandestine planting of GPS tracking devices on people’s cars without a warrant.
The Defense Department is presently developing a new generation of scanning technology that can scan brains. Given the evisceration of Fourth Amendment protections, what legal safeguards are left to prevent government from taking its national security interests to the next level of requiring all air travelers to have their brains scanned for “suspicious” thoughts before boarding their flights? Changes of such magnitude do not happen overnight but occur incrementally. Once we give up our right to privacy regarding our bodies, it is that much easier to do the same regarding our minds.
Technologies now also exist that can “see” through walls. Without the need for warrants, the hunt for terrorists can literally end up in your bedroom.
Unfortunately, the prognosis for the survival of the free world is quite bleak if the stated trends are not stopped very soon. It is the ever constant creep of a culture of control that presents the most insidious danger. As we begin to accept increasingly greater and greater restrictions on our civil liberties, the technology to further abridge these liberties continues to expand and lead the way to even greater abridgements. This process is subtle and we are not likely to notice that our freedom is gone until it is too late, or maybe not even then. In the end, we may consider ourselves a “free” people but have little understanding of what that even means.