Keeping score on civil liberties

by Wendy Thomson on February 23, 2013

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I stumbled upon a very disheartening piece written on WashingtonsBlog: a scorecard on the Bill of Rights v. the Government. Sadly, it appears that the Bill of Rights isn’t playing very well. In fact, one could say that at the moment, it looks like a rout.

This rather lengthy but well-documented piece covers all of the first 10 Amendments. By the time I got down to the Fourth I was sobered. By the time I got to the bottom I was fairly well dismayed. This blogger presents a compelling argument that most of the Bill of Rights is in tatters.

The sad thing about the article is that it clearly articulates the reduction in our rights without even needing to mention the TSA and the demise of a traveler’s reasonable expectation of privacy for his or her body. There you have it: we live in a world governed by people who don’t believe that travelers have a right to expect that strangers will not be grabbing their testicles or rubbing their breasts.

The absurdity of that statement — the truth of that statement — stops me in my tracks. And yet, that argument isn’t even needed for the WashingtonsBlog writer to prove many times over that our privacy is constantly being invaded. Major companies are complicit in this: for instance, half of government requests for email information from Google were done without warrant, and Google provided the requested data around 90% of the time.

There are some small efforts at fighting back: 34 gun-related companies, not happy with the current gun control rhetoric, have notified various government entities that they will apply any gun control laws to all customers, government included. There’s a certain poetry to that approach.

It occurs to me that all of the stifling of free speech, the Constitution-free 100-mile-wide zones that encircle us (I live in one), and the incomprehensibly huge amount of watching and spying to which we are being subjected on a daily basis go back to a flawed original premise that spawned the current TSA approach. It’s all based upon fear and an apparent belief that there exists a critical mass of evil so large that the operating assumption must be that everyone is evil, and therefore everyone must be watched.

Bring out the Puritans: fall prostrate and declare your sins, ye unwashed masses. We are all evil and need to be cleansed. This time, however, it’s not an over-zealous church that is making the pronouncement, it’s your government. And their uniforms aren’t nearly as cool as those of the Knights Templar.

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