You may repeat into your cell phone, as you walk around, trying to find a signal, “Can you hear me now?,” but you mean, can a known friend or family member hear you?
Not some government agency.
We thought we’d come a long way from rural party phone lines when uninvited listeners might overhear what was said in violation of a caller’s right of privacy.
But we now have the “all-consuming N.S.A,” as one paper characterized the agency, for which “no morsel [of private information][is] too miniscule,” meaning that our government is tracking the calls of every American and much more information under the elastic aegis of the ironically named Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. Absent any restraint by any other governmental branch or agency, the NSA’s rules of engagement are, “Why not?”
We are guaranteed a constitutional right of privacy – the “right to be let alone” – by penumbral emanations of the bill of rights including you can’t search and seize a person or place without probable cause, you have a right to associate with whomever you wish, you may say what you think. Too much of this old-fashioned liberty, however, is being torn to bits by our peeping Tom government.
The government and a chorus of wrong-minded ditto heads say, “So what do you got to hide?”
Wrong question! Privacy is not about secrets that you have to hide but the dignity to be left undisturbed. The correct question is – by what authority do you presume to steal what I’ve refused to disclose?
Who thinks the government should be able to brush past your high privacy hedge, cross the fence around your house, draw back the curtains on your windows, or your bath shower, know and archive your genetic configuration, examine your medical records, credit card bills, the books you read, or know your associates, rummage through your private papers, photos, emails, know who you call, when, and what you say?
We all care when the government makes public what is our private information. Who thinks the government should be able to arrest you when they steal information this way, when they bar you from even knowing that they have information so you may correct what they “believe?” You may say, they should be able to arrest someone if he did something wrong. There’s the rub. The government says it and gets it wrong. Franz Kafka’s dystopic novel, “the Trial,” is about awakening a citizen and refusing to disclose to him the charges or the entirely arbitrary process for dealing with the phantom charges; indeed the novel, “auf Deutsch,” is aptly called, “Der Process.” What if our undisclosed “process” mysteriously resulted in questioning you, denied you the right to fly, or prompted an audit because the government doesn’t understand your financial transactions?
What if the government doesn’t secure the information it steals from you – perhaps they use the same computing geniuses who rolled out the Affordable Care Act online?”
When the terrorists threatened our security on 9-11, putting at risk our individual rights, it appears that our government decided to fight back, in large part, by destroying our own liberties.
The most shocking disassociation we may observe is a people angry at their government for so many things but that still trusts the government to compromise our privacy in order to straight arm some vaguely formatted danger – never quite identified or related to our government’s shady intrusive practices.
When the government rails about leakers Manning or Snowden disclosing our “secrets,” and we can detect no harm suffered by our “agency” assets, we are left with the undeniable fact that what the government really wants kept secret are the lies it’s telling us.
Instead of the metaphor that America is that shining city on a hill, America increasingly is more like some earthen hut in a barren valley for its proven disrespect of the right of privacy.