Privacy and Surveillance: Now on to the Supreme Court
The issue of blanket surveillance by the NSA now heads to the Supreme Court. The powerful ruling by Judge Richard J. Leon of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia against the blanket surveillance now means that the issue will be argued before the Supreme Court.
This will happen as Judge Leon, while issuing an opinion that calls the use of technology “almost Orwellian” and that “James Madison would be aghast”, ruled only on the part of two petitioners to the court. He stayed his injunction “in light of the significant national security interests at stake in this case and the novelty of the constitutional issues,”. This means he is allowing the Federal government time for an appeal.
This is the first time that the NSA blanket surveillance has been argued openly since the Snowden revelations of last summer. Finally we now have the issue of massive capture of personal information by the security agency being discussed in an open court of law. No longer can the NSA simply go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for authorization where it has received 35 rulings that this blanket surveillance is legal.
Judge Leon’s ruling is exciting to me, not so much because of the specifics of the ruling as it now brings the discussion of the NSA’s activities out into the open. It is time for America to have an intelligent conversation about the morals, ethics and social contracts of a society where privacy is rapidly going away. How does a democracy recast itself in a world of no privacy?
In my recently published eBook, “Is Privacy Dead? The Future of Privacy in the Digital Age” I suggest that countries must now have accept that privacy as it has been known for centuries, no longer exists. This means that we must redefine how we live in an age where all is known or can be known. The place based definitions of privacy that have shaped our thinking of about it for centuries are now obsolete. Technological advancement and ever accelerating connectivity have forced us to face a world where what we communicate and where we are is no longer private.
In fact, it is time to redefine privacy in a way that reflects the reality of our globally connected world. In my book, I offer up a new definition of privacy:
“Privacy is what we cherish and hold inside us. It is our thoughts, feelings and sense of Individual Self. We can have this privacy whether in solitude or in the company of others. Privacy is an inner state of being and awareness that provides both comfort and identity.”
This new definition is offered up as a point for social discussion. We must redefine the term as to not do so is to be nostalgic in the face of existing reality.
Back to Judge Leon’s ruling and the inevitability of the NSA’s blanket surveillance being argued before the Supreme Court. In my book I quote several justices, from Brandeis to Douglas to Warren. Though they were all eloquent on the subject of a privacy that is under attack from intelligence agencies and technology, they of course are no longer on the court. This points to the quote in the book from a current justice. Justice Antonin Scalia is regarded as the leader of the conservative group of justices on the current court. About privacy and the Fourth Amendment he said:
“There is nothing new in the realization that the Constitution sometimes insulates the criminality of a few in order to protect the privacy of us all.”
This sounds like someone who views the Constitution of the United States as being a protection against the blanket surveillance of the citizens. It will extremely interesting to see how the “liberal” and “conservative” judges [in quotes as I don’t really know what these terms mean anymore] view and ultimately render a ruling on the NSA’s daily capture of 5 billion cell phone conversations.
So a thank you to Judge Leon whose ruling fully brings the issue of privacy and surveillance out into the light of the public discourse and the Judicial branch of the United States where it belongs.