Monday, June 17, 2013

Missing the point

In response to Edward Snowden's revelations of our domestic spying programs, supporters are rushing to defend the programs by highlighting terrorist plots that were disrupted because of the program. One of these success stories was the Mumbai attack that resulted in 160 deaths, which is a weird way of defining success, but that's been covered by others. Others have also pointed out that despite the occasional success stories, we've had failures like the Boston Marathon bombing. It seems, at best, we have a domestic spying program that sometimes succeeds in stopping terrorist attacks.

But, whether or not these programs occasionally stop terrorist attacks is not the point. The Constitution contains The Fourth Amendment, which states:
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.
There's no clause that says the president or congress can ignore the fourth amendment just because they've succeeded in scaring the people about low probability events and have expensive tools that might prevent some of those events. That is the point.

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