Freedom is most important to people

During “Technology and Privacy and The Fourth Amendment” on Jan. 22 at the World Economic Forum of the 2,500global business and political elite currently gathering at Davos — mentioned in the TGI Jan. 21 editorial — a group of Harvard professors addressed “the end of privacy as we know it.” Such possibilities as a department store knowing from your buying habits that you’re pregnant even before your family does, or mosquito-sized robots gathering DNA for, say, an insurance company or the gov-ernment were discussed, as well as the current technology we experience with “autofill,” and ads displayed in webpages based on our online searches.

I don’t take issue with the online advertisements on free webpages; I pay a small annual fee so I don’t get ads in my Yahoo email. By staying current on our Internetsubscription, we have free and unlimited access to the World Wide Web, and can pay for those online news resources we choose to support. If I chose to be fairly anonymous, I could access the Web at the public library and pay cash when I shop.

I do take issue with the government’s efforts to force encryption and technology developers to include back doors into software. “Lawful intercept” systems built under current laws have already been abused for unlawful spying by governments and criminals.

I do take issue with the government snooping on law-abiding American citizens. Folks in law enforcement communities were not at all surprised at revelations that most of the information collected by the NSA had nothing do withterrorism.

A couple months ago the Wall Street Journalpublished an article about a government program that mimics cell phone towers and that has a flying range “covering most of the U.S. population.”

Law enforcement agencies began deploying radar systems, which can “see” into our homes, more than two years ago with little notice to the courts and no public disclosure of when or how they would be used.

The radars work like finely tuned motion detectors, using radio waves to zero in on movements as slight as human breathing from a distance of more than 50 feet. They can detect whether anyone is inside a house, where they are and whether they are moving.

The technology raises legal and privacy issues because the U.S. Supreme Court has said officers generally cannot use high-tech sensors to tell them about the inside of a person’s house without first obtaining a search warrant.

I do take issue with a representative for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers arguing that citizens must decide whether they want civil rights or safe communities. “You have to draw the line between your right as a citizen to privacy and a community’s right to live in a crime-free environment,” Carrie Mills said. “You can’t have them both.”

I do take issue on who gets to label a person a terrorist. After the “Patriot” Act passed on how the U.S. government would be empowered to track and treatterrorists, members of the G.W. Bush Cabinet called the president of the NEA (Reg Weaver of the National Education Association) a terrorist because he spoke against the administration’s “No Child Left Behind” program; and also labeled Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity a terrorist because he publicly questioned the administration’s secretive draft of legislation furthering suspension of our civil rights: “Justice Department Drafts Sweeping Expansion of Anti-Terrorism Act.”

Dr. David Cole, Georgetown University Law professor and author of “Terrorism and the Constitution,” reviewed the draft legislation at the request of the Center, and said that the legislation “raises a lot of serious concerns. It’s troubling that they have gotten this far along and they’ve been telling people there is nothing in the works.’’

This proposed law, he added, “would radically expand law enforcement and intelligence gathering authorities, reduce or eliminate judicial oversight over surveillance, authorize secret arrests, create a DNA database based on unchecked executive ‘suspicion,’ create new death penalties, and even seek to take American citizenship away from persons who belong to or support disfavored political groups.’’

Under the Fourth Amendment, search and seizure (including arrest) should be limited in scope according to specific information supplied to the issuing court. Early court decisions limited the amendment’s scope to a law enforcement officer’s physical intrusion onto private property, but with Katz v. United States (1967), the Supreme Court held that its protections, such as the warrant requirement, extend to the privacy of individuals as well as physical locations.

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Susan Oakley is a resident of Wailua.

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