Editorial: New Wiretapping Bill Comes At Too Great Price

This story was written by Editorial Board, Indiana Daily Student


If its true that those who give up liberty for security deserve neither, then a great deal of Congress is operating on borrowed freedom. It was they who, last week, overwhelmingly approved vast changes to the governments wiretapping protocol, expanding their ability to spy both domestically and internationally. Perhaps the piece de resistance is a provision that allows the government to conduct a weeklong wiretap without obtaining a warrant if it is deemed that important national security information would otherwise be lost. Also in the bill is a provision to grant immunity to some phone companies, now facing roughly 40 lawsuits, provided that the request to surrender information from their clients was legitimate. Most people agree that both the White House and the phone companies are getting a good deal. Those in favor of the bill have commented that it will better enable us to combat threats against terrorists.But lawmakers seem to assume that the trade-off between safety and liberty is a new concept, one that our countrys founders were unaware of. Apparently, once the president determined that the Fourth Amendment could at times be inconvenient to his purposes, he chose to ignore it. As a result, all that weve won in this war is a gradual incision into our rights that continues to be cut further.The war against terror will never be over. And whereas previous threats against our nation were given expiration dates and thus a period when we could look with hindsight on our rush to abandon our liberties for safety, the Global War on Terror will not provide us that advantage. When in WWII it was determined that the Japanese were spies and thus should be imprisoned, we recanted our mistakes after the war was over and agreed that we were too caught up in the rush to feel safe. When the madness had ended, we renewed our commitment to freedom from the comfort of our prosperity and security. But history provides constant examples that freedom given up is never worth the price. Though we are now pressed with the challenge of seeing the truth of that statement in real time, as the war rages on, it is inexcusable that we should be so willing to ignore the Fourth Amendment. The constitution was not written blindly, ignorant that we would be safer if we were less free.Most lawmakers want to deflect the gravity of what has happened, instead offering to go after the phone companies that complied with the governments illegal order. But phone companies should not be punished for not being a better divining rod for the government. To punish phone companies because they could not suitably replace the White Houses conscience is to give up the right of the government to make moral decisions at all. The government should know better than to blame its capriciousness on the agents of its will. And Congress should know better than to sacrifice our hard-earned freedoms for a little convenience in determining threats.
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