John Stossel’s NSA Apathy

FBN host and bona-fide libertarian John Stossel has apparently caught hell for this column, stating his apathy towards last month’s revelations about NSA spying. To defend himself, he posted a list of 100 things he hates about government, all of which give him greater cause for alarm than NSA surveillance.

I have no complaints with his list, and I’m not going to argue that the NSA spying should replace such-and-such item on his Top 100. However, I would say two items from his list, the Drug War and “People Still Jailed When Prosecutors Know They Are Innocent”, tie into why the NSA scandal is a big deal.

The Drug War, as Radley Balko’s new book and long-time reporting show, has the amount of collateral damage attached to it in large part because of exceptions made to the 4th Amendment’s requirement of probable cause and its ban on unreasonable searches. Now judges sign off on warrants with very little oversight, police routinely send in the SWAT teams for these searches and are rarely held accountable when things go wrong. The results of these exceptions have been pretty damn horrifying.

I recently posted a story about a man proven innocent by DNA evidence still being held in jail; this trend is not unique. The national Innocence Project posted a few years back that of the first 255 DNA exonerees, 65 alleged prosecutorial misconduct. Nearly half of those exonerees were subject to misconduct, error, or “harmful” error. A more recent post from the Florida Innocence Project reports that 42% of 1,100 exonerations were CAUSED by “official misconduct.” Fifth & Fourteenth Amendment due process requirements be damned.

What does this have to do with NSA spying? There seems to be a distinctive pattern here: the government weakens constitutional guarantees and bad things happen to innocent people. Are we supposed to just trust that an agency with these vast capabilities and no oversight into its activities is acting 100% lawfully, morally, and accurately?

Law professor Randy Barnett puts it just right in his recent column: “Even if these blanket data-seizure programs are perfectly proper now, the technical capability they create makes it far easier for government to violate the rights of the people in the future.”

Ask Brandon Mayfield what happens when we put blinding trust into the federal government.

Our justice system is already fallible. We should not replicate these mistakes on a grander scale.



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