By Amy Alkon
shared this story
from Advice Goddess Blog.
NSA Spying Is Dangerous Beyond Citizens’ Privacy Concerns
Law professor Glenn Harlan Reynolds points out in USA Today that there’s a threat to our constitutional separation of powers, making it easier for the President to spy on and blackmail his enemies:
As the Framers conceived it, our system of government is divided into three branches — the executive, legislative and judicial — each of which is designed to serve as a check on the others. If the president gets out of control, Congress can defund his efforts, or impeach him, and the judiciary can declare his acts unconstitutional. If Congress passes unconstitutional laws, the president can veto them, or refuse to enforce them, and the judiciary, again, can declare them invalid. If the judiciary gets carried away, the president can appoint new judges, and Congress can change the laws, or even impeach.
But if the federal government has broad domestic-spying powers, and if those are controlled by the executive branch without significant oversight, then the president has the power to snoop on political enemies, getting an advantage in countering their plans, and gathering material that can be used to blackmail or destroy them. With such power in the executive, the traditional role of the other branches as checks would be seriously undermined, and our system of government would veer toward what James Madison in The Federalist No. 47 called “the very definition of tyranny,” that is, “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands.”
…Rather than counting on leakers to protect us, we need strong structural controls that don’t depend on people being heroically honest or unusually immune to political temptation, two characteristics not in oversupply among our political class. That means that the government shouldn’t be able to spy on Americans without a warrant — a warrant that comes from a different branch of government, and requires probable cause. The government should also have to keep a clear record of who was spied on, and why, and of exactly who had access to the information once it was gathered. We need the kind of extensive audit trails for access to information that, as the Edward Snowden experience clearly illustrates, don’t currently exist.
I especially liked this idea he included:
In addition, we need civil damages — with, perhaps, a waiver of governmental immunities — for abuse of power here. Perhaps we should have bounties for whistleblowers, too, to help encourage wrongdoing to be …read more