Saturday, November 17, 2007

Privacy and the Patriot Act

As much as I recognize the naming of this piece of legislation in perfectly framed Republican-speak, and I am against the vast coverage the law allows, I recognize the need for our government to be able to use this sort of surveillance to protect the citizens of the nation. While that is a necessity, the coverage of the law is too vast, and the rights of the citizens to privacy are at risk.

There are evil people in the world, organized in a variety of groups, that mean to do us harm. There is no doubt about that. Our law enforcement officials and the various agencies that serve to protect us need the ability to listen to any conversation, to view any scene, and to question any suspect appropriately as regards, in all three cases, the security of our nation and it’s citizens. Unfortunately, the law allows them to observe in this manner and collect information of all sorts, which could easily become an invasion of privacy not previously afforded those officials.

I have a friend that works in some aspect of Homeland Security. His title is obfuscation for the good work he really does. Frankly, aside from his being an excellent marksman and attached to local law enforcement, I don’t really know what he does. I asked him about the worry of this sort of surveillance coming up with evidence of victimless crimes that would then be prosecuted, and how I felt that sort of information should be overlooked in view of the manner in which it was received, and his quick answer, true I believe, was that such information was discarded, ignored, and let slide.

Our soldiers out of uniform, as I like to call those that protect us covertly within our own borders, are generally good people with good intentions. They have a single purpose job to do – prevent loss of life due to terrorism, and catch terrorists whenever possible. With that as their goal, the small stuff falls by the wayside, seen as unimportant in the grand view of things. That is as it should be, but what if someone in that group, are a group within that group, decided to make use of the information improperly?

The law is written too broadly and needs to be amended to allow for such intrusions on privacy only for the protection of the citizenry. Inasmuch as the men and women that protect us are good people, we cannot expect that proper use of the law will be made use of by them. They, like each of us, are flawed and capable of making decisions against that which is right. The broad powers afforded them are needed to protect us from terrorists, but the citizens need protection of their privacy rights in cases outside of terrorism.

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