August 14, 2007 | By Derek Slater

More on the NSA and "General Warrants"

Last week, we told you about how, nearly eighty years ago, AT&T fought at the Supreme Court to stop the government's warrantless surveillance of Americans' private communications. In its brief in Olmstead v. USA, Ma Bell argued that wiretapping could be far more oppressive than searches conducted by King George that directly motivated the crafting of the Fourth Amendment. For more on King George's "hated writs," check out this excellent article written by former EFF Legal Intern David Snyder. (An adapted version of this article also ran in yesterday's Daily Journal, unfortunately behind a paywall.)

"The technology powering the National Security Agency?s illegal domestic spying program would have amazed James Madison and the other framers of the Bill of Rights. In a time when the steamboat was a technological marvel, it would have been unimaginable for the government to collect millions of innocent Americans' private communications and use computers to look for 'suspicious patterns.'

"But aside from the technology, the government?s ongoing violation of fundamental civil liberties would have been very familiar to the men who gathered in 1791 to adopt the Bill of Rights. The Founding Fathers battled an 18th century version of the wholesale surveillance that the government is accused of doing today ? an expansive abuse of power by King George II and III that invaded the colonists? communications privacy."


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