So the Democratic Congress could not resist sacrificing our 4th Amendment rights on the altar of FISA. Providing immunity for corporations to do the bidding of a corrupt and power mad Republican administration. Other bloggers have focused on the immediate effect of this craven legislation that gives tyrants carte blanche to intercept your communications and its chilling effect on freedom of expression and political opposition. For me, I am looking at the larger political fish being fried, which is the conservative assault upon a right to privacy as such.
The 4th Amendment doesn't quite cover the concept of personal privacy:
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.
It is closer to property rights, placing physical security in the same bucket as security of personal possessions. Thus, in this way of thinking, the problem is not the government (or another entity) knowing what you have said, but taking possession of the mode of communication - letters, emails, stone tablets, etc. The content of these instruments is not protected. While you are free to say or think whatever you like, a right to free speech, you have no constitutional right to private communication of such thoughts.
The conservative assault on Roe v. Wade has virtually nothing to do with abortion and everything to do with privacy. People of means will always find ways to be rid of an unwanted pregnancy. I believe it was Bob Barr (
someone please correct me corrected) who, during the farcical attempt to impeach the Big Dog, was uncovered as not only having had an affair but also of paying for his mistress wife to have an abortion. The part about Roe that frightens the conservatives is the idea people may do as they wish without having to report to and get the consent of a (paternal) authority, making the intimate fabric of their lives a legitimate object of scrutiny and control.
Before Roe there was Griswold, declaring that birth control was not something subject to state control. The emphasis on reproduction and control of one's body is not an accident in the court battles over privacy. If privacy is the right to be free of intervention in how you conduct your life, and if you already have at least partial property rights in your body, then the wedge to use to undermine privacy - and ultimately related rights such as freedom of speech, worship and property rights - is to target those interactions where bodily integrity is argued to be compromised, most obviously in pregnancy but also in sexual acts, disease control (key in harassment of gays) and general medical procedures. In other words, they try to establish some kind of property right or material interest in your body that is defensible in court.
The invasion of modes of communication can be seen in this light, with the government claiming to have a material interest in communications as such, just as they claim a material interest in the pregnant or homosexual body as such, to legitimize intervention in the content of those communications. The approach is turning it into a property issue in which an external entity has some defined material interest. A Telco owns the transmission medium, an ISP owns the servers, etc.
Objection to universal health care must be examined from this perspective. If everyone, everywhere must be insured, then there is no longer such a need for the insurance and medical companies to know intimate details about you. It means they no longer have a property right in your personal data and thus lose claim on that part of your intimate life. They then lose the right to exchange and sell your data, making money by selling you out.
The same dynamic underlies the infuriating condition of identity information. People should not have to opt out of having their identity (name, sex, age, address, purchasing habits, travel itineraries, etc.) sold to the highest bidder. When identity and health information get combined, the individuals are the losers. You don't even need to posit a fascist government (though that is what movement conservatism aims for) to see how the lack of an explicit right to privacy is used to undermine the efficacy of other civil rights.
Hillary Clinton is a proponent of privacy rights, no doubt in part because of how profoundly her own have been violated over the last several decades, but I would wager even more so because of her life-long work in defense of the most vulnerable people in society. I cannot find the link now, but I know I have read about her support for constitutional amendment to enshrine a citizen's right to privacy. Reproductive rights, which are more than just abortion rights, would finally have a presumption of privacy instead of trying to make certain situations and procedures protected. Marriage would also fall under the protection of privacy. Your health records and your economic transactions would be yours, not the property of corporations. And so forth.
What I want to ask the Obamacans is why should we expect The Precious to defend any of our fundamental personal rights, let alone push for the unequivocal foundation of another, if he is the candidate of the same Democrats who are now flushing our civil rights down the toilet? Obama is the Establishment candidate. He is a member of the club that is failing to defend us now.
Where is his commitment to our right to privacy?
NOTE: A final sentence has been added to the paragraph beginning "Before Roe there was Griswold" to make the argument more clear. Several people have commented and emailed that they were uncertain what I mean in that paragraph.