Fourth Amendment Lincoln’s Surveillance State

Discussion in 'Bill of Rights' started by tulianr, Jul 6, 2013.

  1. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    Published: July 5, 2013

    COLCHESTER, Vt. — BY leaking details of the National Security Agency’s data-mining program, Edward J. Snowden revealed that the government’s surveillance efforts were far more extensive than previously understood. Many commentators have deemed the government’s activities alarming and unprecedented. The N.S.A.’s program is indeed alarming — but not, from a historical perspective, unprecedented. And history suggests that we should worry less about the surveillance itself and more about when the war in whose name the surveillance is being conducted will end.

    In 1862, after President Abraham Lincoln appointed him secretary of war, Edwin M. Stanton penned a letter to the president requesting sweeping powers, which would include total control of the telegraph lines. By rerouting those lines through his office, Stanton would keep tabs on vast amounts of communication, journalistic, governmental and personal. On the back of Stanton’s letter Lincoln scribbled his approval: “The Secretary of War has my authority to exercise his discretion in the matter within mentioned.”

    On the same day he received control of the telegraphs, Stanton put an assistant secretary in charge of two areas: press relations and the newly formed secret police. Stanton ultimately had dozens of newspapermen arrested on questionable charges.

    He used his power over the telegraphs to influence what journalists did or didn’t publish. In 1862, the House Judiciary Committee took up the question of “telegraphic censorship” and called for restraint on the part of the administration’s censors.

    When I first read Stanton’s requests to Lincoln asking for broad powers, I accepted his information control as a necessary evil. Lincoln was fighting for a cause of the utmost importance in the face of enormous challenges. The benefits of information monitoring, censorship and extrajudicial tactics, though disturbing, were arguably worth their price.

    But part of the reason this calculus was acceptable to me was that the trade-offs were not permanent. As the war ended, the emergency measures were rolled back. Information — telegraph and otherwise — began to flow freely again.

    So it has been with many wars: a cycle of draconian measures followed by contraction. During the First World War, the Supreme Court found that Charles T. Schenck posed a “clear and present danger” for advocating opposition to the draft; later such speech became more permissible. During the Second World War, habeas corpus was suspended several times — most notably in Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor attack — but afterward such suspensions became rare.

    This is why, if you are a critic of the N.S.A.’s surveillance program, it is imperative that the war on terror reach its culmination. In May, President Obama declared that “this war, like all wars, must end.” If history is any guide, ending the seemingly endless state of war is the first step in returning our civil liberties.
  2. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    OK. Then I guess the question is if rollbacks will happen when (if?) the undeclared "war" ends. I have my doubts about both the whens and ifs.
    Yard Dart and Mountainman like this.
  3. tulianr

    tulianr Don Quixote de la Monkey

    It's a dangerous path on which to place the country - a never-ending "war on terror." We will always have enemies, but we need not be continually at war.
    Yard Dart, Mountainman and chelloveck like this.
  4. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    it should be the SAME with the Patriot Act as well.... It needs to be Rolled Back, at the same time, along with a few other things, like ObamaCare.....
  5. Alpha Dog

    Alpha Dog survival of the breed

    The thing that gets me is when one declares war on another there is a enemey as with the war on terrorist but hell they didn't go out investigate and locate the threats. They just classified everyone as the threat so they dont have to hit the ground and shake the bushes. Once the people calm down and the Big Brother fakes some big super save the world news release people will start to accept the violations of their civil rights. At which time Big Brother will tighten the leash and move on to the next phase of taking our right with public approval.
  6. Yard Dart

    Yard Dart Vigilant Monkey Moderator

    The government likes the open ended nature of our current advisory, as it allows them the continual tightening of the noose on us, "we the people". The public see's the overall effort to defeat the foreign threat but, is oblivious to the nature of violation of our own civil rights.... thinking it is all in the effort, and not at their citizens peril.
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