Celebrating the Glorious Fourth
I am a good American and I love our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. I will celebrate the Fourth of July this year with great enjoyment, as I do every year.
But watching Edward Snowden be stripped of his passport and rendered a stateless person without due process has been a sobering experience. When I was growing up, whistleblowers were seen as principled people who were willing to lay down their personal safety and security in order to expose evil things that the public ought to know about. (Daniel Ellsberg was the prime example from my youth.) As I write this, Snowden is trapped in a Russian airport seeking shelter and the word “whistleblower” has been recast to mean a fink, a rat, a person who deserves to be squashed like a cockroach.
What Snowden did was simply to let us know that Big Brother is indeed watching us, good Americans and terrorists alike: we’re all the same to the NSA. In the old days a judge had to issue a warrant based on probable cause before the police could enter a home and search for illegal goods. Nowadays a secret judge in a secret court issues secret warrants that allow our own government to keep tabs on us. By writing this post I might very well trigger red flags and be placed under enhanced scrutiny.
I have no idea what will happen to Snowden, or to America, or the world at large. WordPress.org is one of thousands of websites that will be participating in on online protest on July 4 against the NSA’s surveillance of online activity and phone calls, and I praise WordPress for its principles. (See http://techcrunch.com/2013/07/03/wordpress-org-reddit-mozilla-others-will-participate-in-anti-nsa-web-protests-on-july-4th/)
And in honor of the Glorious Fourth, I am proud to reprint several of my favorite constitutional amendments. Happy Fourth of July!
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.