NSA’s efforts unnecessary, maybe unlawful

The decision by a federal judge this week granting a preliminary injunction to block the government’s collection of domestic phone records is welcome to all who believe that U.S. citizens have the right to privacy absent probable cause of wrongdoing.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon, in making his ruling, is saying that the government’s widespread, secret spying program is likely unconstitutional.

Naturally, the ruling by Leon will not stand unchallenged. Expect more debate and more discussion about just how far the government needs to go to protect the security of citizens. But it is time to stop the debating and start restraining the nation’s security agencies.

People deserve, as the Fourth Amendment so clearly states, to be secure in their person — without unwarranted government intrusion and spying. That is true whether we are talking about police breaking into a home without probable cause or government spies from the National Security Agency capturing the records of a private citizen’s phone calls.

For New Mexicans, some of the strongest fighters against an overreaching government are our two U.S. senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich. (The state’s House delegation, Democratic U.S. Reps. Ben Ray Lujan, Michelle Lujan Grisham and Republican Steve Pearce, also are calling for less NSA spying and more accountability. All three voted last summer to defund the NSA mass surveillance program, through an amendment to the Defense Department’s annual appropriation bill that failed narrowly.)

Udall, New Mexico’s senior senator, has long been a champion of civil liberties and the rights of citizens to be left alone. He voted against the USA Patriot Act, passed in the post 9/11 fervor to fight terrorism no matter the cost to liberty. He correctly predicted that the Patriot Act would undermine the rights of citizens. He continues to push for scaling back mass spying and for investigations of these programs.

As he said: “We can protect our national security without sacrificing our constitutional rights.”

Heinrich, in a statement applauding the decision, put it well: “We have allowed the intelligence community to stray from what the Framers had in mind when they wrote the Fourth Amendment and were dealing directly with government overreach. It’s increasingly clear that some of the NSA’s current efforts are unnecessary, and possibly unlawful.”

Unless people are willing to fight for their privacy, they will sacrifice it to a security state whose appetite for information can never be satisfied.

— The Santa Fe New Mexican

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