CON: NSA pushing boundaries of Fourth Amendment
June 23, 2013 at 1:23 a.m.
When he graduated from the Victoria Police Academy in the 1970s, John Taylor knew all about search and seizure laws.
He knew he needed a warrant to search someone's home or personal belongings. And he knew he needed probable cause to obtain that warrant.
During his time as a deputy for the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office, there were many cases in which catching criminals would have been easier without having to jump through all the hoops required by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Despite that, he wouldn't have had it any other way.
"To say it was inconvenient at times would be an understatement. ... But as a private individual, they (the Bill of Rights) protect me just as much as they protect the next guy. I don't want someone to be able to monitor virtually everything I do," Taylor said.
Which is why he is frustrated the national government has been allowed to circumvent one of the amendments to the Constitution and do just that - spy on American citizens' communications via cellphone and email.
"If we choose to continually ignore the Constitution based on who comes up with the best story of the moment to justify what they are doing, sooner or later we can just throw the whole thing out. And then we have chaos," Taylor said.
Gino Tozzi, a political science lecturer at the University of Houston-Victoria, with specialties in the presidency and public policy, said Taylor's concerns are legitimate but that the legal basis for the infringement comes from the Patriot Act passed into law in 2001.
"It allows the government to have expanded powers of surveillance. ... This is very serious stuff because people want their Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments, and some of the parts of the law do infringe to some degree on those in the interest of national security," Tozzi said.
He said the recent NSA method of surveillance leaked by Edward Snowden of looking at citizens generally and not just those suspected of terroristic connections does push the boundaries of even the Patriot Act.
"Laws are written to be vague ... so the agencies that implement them have a broad range of options on how to employ that law. The interesting thing is that Congress does not want that to happen - so legislative intent or their intention should be filed, and they did not have the intent of monitoring ordinary people's phones calls," Tozzi said.
Despite a legal precedent, Benjamin Gossett, a Victoria native and political science major at University of North Texas, says he thinks the invasion into his privacy is bordering on the tendencies of a police state.
He compared the NSA leak to Thomas Hobbes' "Leviathan," a theoretical social contract written in the 1600s that advocates for absolute government rule because people are unruly and cannot take care of themselves.
"If that were true, everyone in the United States would be a terrorist, and there would be almost a legitimate reason to police everyone," Gossett said.
He said there would not be a national security risk great enough to risk the integrity of the Constitution and put Americans' rights on hold.
"When the United States was founded, we were worried about England and that super strong government - that is why we set up the Bill of Rights, to protect us from that strong central government," Gossett said.
For citizens who take issue with the probing, Tozzi has one suggestion - get involved.
"I think people should also be concerned and follow what is going on in the government, follow the news, get involved, see what your legislature is doing about this, so that the government does not go above and beyond what it is allowed to do," Tozzi said.