Yesterday was a pretty worthless day in the House of Representatives. The lower chamber of Congress didn’t even bother to convene until half past noon, and then they only bothered to pass two toothless resolutions: One praising the people involved in the crash and rescue of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, and the other declaring tomorrow to be National Data Privacy Day.
The National Data Privacy Day resolution was supposed to help encourage people to observe January 28 as National Data Privacy Day, but coming as it did less than 48 hours ahead of time, it seems ill-planned to have any actual effect. That’s a shame, because as technical as it sounds, data privacy is actually one of the traditional pillars of freedom in this country. The idea that the government doesn’t have the right to intrude into your private papers is contained in the Bill of Rights, which declares in its fourth amendment to the Constitution, 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.”
The sad thing is that the power of the fourth amendment to the Constitution was effectively unraveled by a law passed just last year: The FISA Amendments Act. The FISA Amendments act allows the government to conduct unreasonable searches and seizures of people’s houses, papers and effects, conducting either physical searches or broad, nationwide searches of vast electronic communications networks, without any search warrant, and without any judicial control or real congressional oversight, and not at all particularly describing the place to be searched or the persons or things to be seized.
The Big Brother spy programs that the FISA Amendments Act legitimized include huge dragnets that collect all electronic communications and dump them into a gigantic computer database that is in effect a resurrection of the infamous Total Information Awareness program. Through this kind of continual eavesdropping on Americans’ online and other electronic interactions, the FISA Amendments Act eliminates data privacy in the United States. Given that the FISA Amendments Act also allows physical searches without search warrants, even if you write information down on paper without the use of a computer you cannot be sure that your information will remain private.
Any member of Congress who voted for the FISA Amendments Act voted against data privacy. But, wouldn’t you know it, hundreds of the same U.S. Representatives who voted to approve the FISA Amendments Act last year voted yesterday in favor of the resolution supporting the declaration National Data Privacy Day. These 228 cowardly members of Congress find it easy to pass a powerless resolution making a statement claiming to support data privacy, but when push came to shove, they couldn’t summon the moral strength to actually defend the Constitution and uphold the fourth amendment’s protection of data privacy.
These 228 members of the House of Representatives are hypocrites who make a big show about praising the very freedoms that they then turn around and attack when they think that no one is paying attention. They have, through their dishonesty and disdain for the Constitution of the United States of America, proven themselves to be unfit to serve as members of the U.S. Congress.