I vividly remember sitting in Professor Fletcher Baldwin’s Criminal Procedure at the University of Florida and learning about the warrant requirements of the Fourth Amendment. I seem to recall that without a warrant searches are presumed to be invalid. The issuance of a search warrant requires probable cause which must be demonstrated to a neutral magistrate.
I bring this up not because I enjoy reminiscing about law school and the Fourth Amendment, but because it has recently been revealed that the U.S. government is conducting warrantless surveillance on U.S. residents. This surveillance had previously been kept secret and is only now coming to light after the Department of Justice has decided that criminal defendants must be notified if they have been subject to the warrantless search. The U.S. government justifies their actions by claiming that these searches are not illegal because it picks up U.S. based individuals only while targeting those overseas.
For those keeping score we are now aware that the government is conducting surveillance on US residents, collecting details of Americans’ phone calls, and at least temporarily collected geolocation data from our cell phones. These are just the things we know, never mind the information that has yet come to fruition. THIS IS SCARY.
Some of you may be thinking “well I have nothing to hide and am not a criminal so as long as I’m safe I do not care if the government is listening.” That is nice thought but you would be amazed at the number of laws that are on the books. It is so large that nobody is even sure how many criminal violations exist and some people estimate that the number is over 4000 and in the range of 10,000 to 300,000 if you take into consideration regulations. That is just the federal government, not even each individual state’s own laws. From drug trafficking to handing out fliers without permission, you could be arrested.
We should be less concerned about the clandestine spying on foreign governments and more concerned about the US spying on our own people.