Defending Our Right to Privacy
By: Sen. Bill Heath (R-Bremen)
September 11, 2001 marked a turning point for America. Having not suffered a major attack on domestic soil since the attack on Pearl Harbor – “a date which will live in infamy” – Americans were reminded of the cruel reality of terrorism.
In many ways, Americans felt protected and shielded from outside influences. But as citizens rushed to the aid of their fellow Americans and relief efforts mobilized across the country, the face of terrorism began to take on a new meaning for millions of Americans. It took weeks for the dust to settle and life to return to normal, yet people were left wondering whether the actions of a few would affect the freedom of many.
This is not an easy question to answer. The attacks on 9-11 claimed thousands of innocent lives and spurred a renewed discussion about global terrorism in the 21st Century.
Although 9-11 was not the first major attack on U.S. soil, it set in motion a series of intrusive policy changes that continue to erode our most basic liberties. At its core, terrorism attempts to break our spirits by coercing us into fear and is intent upon destroying our freedom.
Since the attacks on 9-11, the federal government has taken extreme measures to monitor the everyday lives of ordinary, law-abiding Americans. But these anti-terrorism tactics have come at a high price.
Anti-terrorism federal watchdogs now go after conservative, tea party groups and investigate the very words we use in our prayers. Never before in history have the most intimate details of our lives been accessible to the prying eyes of government officials and national security agencies – all in the name of national security.
American citizens should be able to take comfort in sharing confidential information through an email or making a casual phone call, but a select few are sitting behind closed doors with the power to watch our every move. Terrorism is a real threat, and we can’t turn a blind eye, but where do we draw the line?
The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) recent targeting of conservative groups along with far-reaching government surveillance programs are raising concern among citizens nationwide as a direct violation of basic privacy rights. Intelligence and data gathering have always been critical to protecting our national security interests and aiding in counterterrorism efforts, heretofore that data gathering has not targeted America’s law-abiding citizens. Americans should never be forced to surrender our Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unwarranted searches and seizures.
In today’s world, it seems like an everyday occurrence that top-secret information is being leaked and landing in the wrong hands – resulting in a high-level breach of national security. If this is happening with national data, it is very possible our personal information could be compromised. This is not only a matter of national security, but personal security.
It is illegal for someone to open your mail, yet the government routinely catalogues and archives our correspondence. In addition, government officials have recently begun assembling a massive database of personal information to assist with the administration of Obamacare. These measures by our government are not ethical and present substantial legal issues.
Government databases housing millions of Americans’ personal information are not only an invasion of privacy; they place every man, women and child at risk. Sadly, Washington D.C. is more concerned with policing law-abiding citizens than preserving individual rights and closing our borders.
We must be vigilant to protect our nation from encroaching interests that are intent upon stripping away our constitutional rights. Sadly, some of the most grievous threats to American independence do not come from outside our borders, but from within.