My friend and Cato Institute scholar Jim Harper shines a light on this egregious violation of your rights.
The court order requiring Verizon to turn over records of every call “on an ongoing daily basis” is a general warrant.
The Framers adopted the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution in order to bar general warrants. The Fourth Amendment requires warrants 1) to be based upon probable cause and 2) to particularly describe the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized. The leaked warrant has neither of these qualities.
A warrant like this would never be adopted in an open court system. With arguments and decisions available to the public and appeals going to public courts, common sense and simple shame would foreclose suspicionless data-gathering about every American for the benefit of future potential investigations.
Alas, many people don’t believe all that deeply in the Constitution and the rule of law when facile promises of national security are on offer. It is thus worthwhile to discuss whether this is unconstitutional law enforcement and security practice would work. President Obama said last week, “I welcome this debate and I think it’s healthy for our democracy.”
A starting point would be to know how much it costs to collect and store the data for these purposes, but that’s secret. The controls on access to data as it’s held would also be good to understand intimately so that we can gauge the risk of abuse. Nope–secret.
If costs like these could be tallied, detailing each investigative success would be a way to predict and compare benefits. Advocates of this mass surveillance have summarily concluded that it worked in a few cases. That’s not enough information. The rest is secret.
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