Benjamin, Aaronson, Edinger & Patanzo, P.A.

The right of privacy

    Most of the articles that we write deal with freedom of expression or freedom of the press.  Sometimes, especially over the last couple of years, are articles have focused on the war in Iraq and how and why our government got us there.  Very rarely however have we spoken or written about the right of privacy or the right to privacy..

The right of privacy or the right to privacy is not a specific spelled out constitutional right, such as freedom of the press and freedom of expression.  Rather, the Courts have determined that the right of privacy exits because of the First Amendment and several other amendments to the United States Constitution.  Yet, it is the First Amendment that is the anchor to this right of privacy.

In many States such as Florida, the State Constitutions have put forward that right to privacy.  In fact, many States such as Florida have determined that their State Constitution gives a stronger right to privacy then that garnered from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Unfortunately, there are those who believe that there is no federal right to privacy as it is not spelled out in the Constitution or the amendments and therefore to these people it does not exist.

Regardless of whether a few ultraconservative, strict constructionists interpreters of the Constitution believe that there is no right to privacy, the right to privacy has become part of our world.  In fact, the right to choose whether one wants to remain pregnant or not is founded in the right to privacy.  Other personal data and medical records also get their protections through the right to privacy.  And on a more philosophical level, we as Americans, would we truly believe that we were free in the freest country on earth?  Would we truly believe that we were a free society at all, if the government had the right to intrude on our private matters and learn all about us, even the things that we hold deepest and darkest of secrets.

Unfortunately, the current administration in Washington has decided that your right to privacy is not equal to their desire to fight the war on terrorism (if you believe they have good motivation) or their desire to be in total control (if you believe their motivations are not so altruistic).  We heard months ago, that the United States government was eavesdropping on telephone conversations made between people here in the United States and other countries.  We heard that the purpose of these sporadic eavesdroppings were in order to fight terrorism.  We further heard that these limited intrusions into the spying on people’s telephone calls, were done on an emergency basis and therefore the FISA Court was too cumbersome to go to in order to get those warrants to allow the wiretapping.

That alone, was a serious intrusion on our right to privacy.  Just because somebody was talking to somebody outside of the country, subjected their calls to being listened to by the government.  Without the government going to the FISA Court, there was a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment and certainly a violation of those people’s right to privacy.  Although that situation was bad, we were promised by our President that this type of intrusion into our constitutional rights was only being done on a limited basis and only from calls that involved another country and not just the United States. 

Well, we learned once again that our government lies to us.  It has now come out that not only has your government been violating your Fourth Amendment rights and your rights to privacy by eavesdropping in on telephone conversations going to another country or coming from another country to the United States.  Now, we have learned that your government has virtually been recording every single conversation, and if not the content of the conversations, at least from where they were made and to whom they were made and the times and the durations of those calls.  Therefore, as we sit, your government has intruded into your rights to the point where they can tell you who you speak to and for how long and unfortunately probably why.  Again, your government is doing this in the name of national security.  Yet, they cannot justify it in the name of national security because they do not have the wherewithal to review all of these calls and to ferret out the information on these calls.  Rather, all this information is going into a large clearinghouse or warehouse or storage house, to be retrieved when your government decides they want to look into your life.

Some of you may say that this intrusion is needed.  Some of you may say that this is a way of fighting terrorism.  Some of you may say “what’s the big deal”.  However, all of you should be saying that we live in the freest country on earth and it is not right for our government to be doing this.  All of us should be writing our Congressmen and Senators and expressing our outrage on this intrusion.  Some of you may be saying that you have nothing to hide, so what’s the big deal.  Whether you have something to hid or not should be your choice, not the government’s choice.  Whether you want something kept secret should be your choice, not the government’s choice.  Whether you want your communications to be private should be your choice, not the government’s choice.  More importantly, there comes a time as Americans that we all must stop this constant slow slide into fascism and dictatorship.  Giving up our right to privacy, and allowing it to occur with impunity, is just adding one more nail in the coffin of the country that we grew up in and learned to love and respect.

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