Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Third Amendment

Recently, the press has published stories about GW authorizing the NSA to spy on the communications of people inside the United States without explicitly going through the secret court that usually authorizes such things. We're talking specifically about communications between someone inside the US and someone outside the US. Not that this makes a difference to me. Our law enforcement system tends to be based on the principle that you can't violates someone privacy unless you have reasonable cause. (I should know. I watch all three (four for a while) Law and Order shows!)

I remember hearing various conversations on NPR about where the "constitutional" right to privacy comes from. Sure, there are things about not being forced to testify against yourself, not being tried twice for the same crime, the right to know the charges against, to be defended by an attorney, etc. But I guess there's some confusion about whether an explicit right to privacy is laid out in the Constitution.

Which brings me to the obscure little Third Amendment in the Bill of Rights:
"No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

OK. Super. I don't want the military taking over my house. Great. Why does this even matter. Well, there's some history here, if you're interested.

I like to believe that this Amendment did, indeed, have something to say about whether or not the government (military, intelligence, Congress, anybody) has the right to just come and hang out in my home -- regardless of whether the "hanging out" is done physically or virtually by way of monitoring my communications. Maybe "without the consent of the owner" would also cover a situation in which a spy was deployed to infiltrate someone's personal life and surupticiously get information from that person.

Just a thought...

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