Written by Terence P. Jeffrey
(CNSNews.com) – Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah says that the right to be free from unreasonable searches—which is guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights—is at risk in America today.
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“Do you believe that at this point in American history there is a concern that the government may be ready to, or is actually, breaching the bounds of the 4th Amendment restriction on power?” CNS News.com asked Lee.
“Yes, I do,” said Lee.
In his new book, Our Lost Constitution: The Willful Subversion of America’s Founding Document, Lee tells the story of how and why the Framers expressly wrote into the Constitution certain specific limits on governmental power.
Among these was the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on government searching or seizing an individual’s property or person without a warrant that could only be issued if there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed and that specifically described “the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.”
In his book, Lee says that the Framers were inspired to include the Fourth Amendment in the Constitution by the story of John Wilkes. Wilkes was a British politician and writer whose house was ransacked and searched by the British government after he had pseudonymously written essays critical of King George III.
Wilkes, as Lee describes in his book, stood up to the king and his political allies and helped free the British people from the threat of “general warrants,” which allowed the government to search the property of multiple persons without establishing probable cause of a crime or naming with specificity what the government was seeking.
In an interview with CNSNews.com about Our Lost Constitution, Lee likened the general warrants issued under King George III to the National Security Agency’s mass and indiscriminant collection of the telephone records of millions of Americans.
Here is an excerpt from CNSNews.com’s interview with Lee:
Terence P. Jeffrey: Do you believe that at this point in American history there is a concern that the government may be ready to, or is actually, breaching the bounds of the 4th Amendment restriction on power?
Sen. Mike Lee: Yes, yes I do. As I explain in my book, there are aspects of the data collection in which the federal government is involved today that some have analogized, understandably, to a general warrant. The government collects all this data, data on who you have called and who has called you, when they have called, how long you have talked, over the past five years. And it is all put into one searchable database. This is collected through government orders that are analogous to general warrants. This ought to be of concern to the American people, especially given our history with things like this.
If you remember the Church report that was issued in the 1970s—a Senate committee that looked into abuses of wiretapping. The Church Report concluded that every presidential administration from FDR through Nixon, leading up to the time that the Church committee performed it’s investigation, had used our intelligence-gathering entities within the federal government to engage in political espionage.
Jeffrey: Do you believe that the electronic age we now live in where so much data and information is stored online and is in electronic servers and so forth, that there is a greater risk of this? That this actually increases the potential leverage of the government to violate the privacy of Americans?
Lee: Yes, just as the advent of the telephone led to wiretapping and the types of abuses that were discussed in the Church report, the risk of that kind of abuse has expanded yet again in the new information age, the new media age. That is why we have go to guard against this very carefully. Now, look, you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to share this concern. I am not saying that I can prove or that I am necessarily convinced that this particular program is being abused today. I don’t know whether it is. I am willing to assume for purposes of discussion that it is not. But what about a year from now or five years from now, ten or fifteen years from now. Eventually, we know how this movie ends because we have seen variations of the same movie before. It is just a remake.
Jeffrey: We need to be vigilant about it?
Jeffrey: Do you think there is an irony that a government that still has not secured our southern border against intrusion by foreign nationals whose identity we know nothing about actually was gathering everybody’s telephone records at the same time?
Lee: Yes. We ought to be very concerned about that.
SOURCE: CNS News
See the full interview here: