TAMPA, January 18, 2014 – President Obama outlined his proposed reforms of the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities in a speech on Friday. The speech was at times eloquent and the president’s intentions appear genuine, but his recommendations for reform are inadequate. As long as the government is trying to prevent crime or terrorism in the future, it’s going to trample liberty in the present.
The president stated the crux of the problem during his speech:
“So we demanded [after 9/11] that our intelligence community improve its capabilities and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack.”
Freedom requires that the government not attempt to prevent anything. All powers granted to the government relate to crimes committed in the past.
The Bill of Rights rests upon this assumption. Rooted in what is now called the “libertarian” principle of non-aggression, the Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from using force against an individual until it has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual has committed a crime in the past.
The Fourth Amendment goes even farther, prohibiting the government from even searching an individual or his papers (e.g., phone records, e-mails, etc.) without probable cause that the individual has committed a crime in the past.
The entire Bill of Rights supposes that you are beyond the reach of government until you have actually committed a crime. That logically excludes the possibility of the government preventing anything, because the government must employ force against the innocent to do so.