As the fog of Donald Trump obscures our political visibility, there are issues much more important than whether the president called Ukraine to obtain campaign dirt on Joe Biden.
Such issues are even more important than determining whether the dirt the president found forms evidence of a crime committed by Biden.
In the end, the fate of the former vice president and our current president are only important to a few pundits and Mitt Romney. It is more important to consider that the U.S. Justice Department and the “global government gang” are in a battle with Facebook to keep worldwide intelligence services in control of our private communications.
Facebook wants to technologically nullify the warrantless searches of electronic messaging heretofore open to government spy machines. Facebook wants to begin “end-to-end” encryption of such messages. The system would scramble all conversations so that they could be read only by the computer of the sender and the computer of the intended receiver. Not even Facebook would have the key.
In order to read such a message, a government official would need to go to court and obtain a warrant to seize hardware. Essentially, government would have to obey the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which forbids warrantless searches without an oath attesting to probable cause.
Last week, in a letter from the U.S. attorney general and the home secretaries of the U.K. and Australia, there was an urgent plea to stop the project. They insisted that intelligence services be issued a “back door key” to read our mail. These agencies want government collection of intelligence to “trump” citizens’ right to privacy.
To understand what is at stake, we actually need to bring Edward Snowden back from Russia. I would prefer to first honor him with a pardon, a medal and a ticker tape parade, in that order. Then his presence would enlighten the debate.
In 2013, Snowden revealed numerous global intelligence surveillance programs run by the U.S. National Security Agency and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance, a consortium of the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, The United Kingdom and Australia. These programs claimed access to almost all electronic communications worldwide. When Snowden revealed it, he was charged with espionage.
The intelligence services want us to believe that they only use such access “for good.” They want us to believe that without the power to read our private communications, terrorists will invade and more towers will come crashing down. Since the passage of the Patriot Act almost a generation ago, we believed them.
But these services did not use their powers “for good.” The most significant use of such power was a plot to spy on Donald Trump and his political campaign. Within America’s “deep state,” some think these powers are used to surveil the Trump administration.
For both Trump and the general public, lack of privacy creates an omnipresent state of surveillance, an existence incompatible with liberty.
I sympathize with those who want government to read the emails of drug dealers or airplane hijackers. Even James Madison, the probable author of our Fourth Amendment, understood that giving the good guys the right to feel “secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” would pose an obstacle for the state.
But the 1778 anti-Federalist who wrote under the pseudonym “Federal Farmer” (probably Richard Henry Lee) in support of our Bill of Rights stated clearly that “hasty and unreasonable (searches) not based on a warrant on oath and issued with due caution” violate the rights of a free people.
It is time that we evolve from a nation in constant fear of attack.
In truth, our nation has not experienced a significant foreign invasion since the British burned Washington during the War of 1812. That is not to say we should be unconcerned about the possibility of an isolated terrorist attack; but neither should we give up our right to keep our private communications private. Our government demonstrates daily that it cannot be trusted with such authority. Such a potential for tyranny has been understood for centuries.
Hopefully, Facebook will restore its image as the champion of free communications by offering hack-proof encryption of our email. It will make government interception of privacy more difficult and will restore our right to be secure in our “persons, houses, papers, and effects.”
Contact Robert M. Levy at Law52@Prodigy.net.