Inscribed in the stairwell of the Statue of Liberty is Benjamin Franklin’s quote, “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Recent reactions to terrorist attacks provide examples of our country beginning to mortgage freedom, and privacy under the mask of protection in times of crisis. Warrantless searches and seizures performed in the interest of national security are becoming more commonplace.
The balance between civil liberties and national security measures remains a delicate balance which should not tip in a direction that leads to the destruction of the Fourth Amendment’s original meaning. As our nation has grown and endured crises, the scale has become unbalanced. Whilst many schools of thought exist and strong opinions surround this issue, in today’s America the current “war on terror” may have allowed our government to peer too closely into the lives of everyday citizens.
Along similar lines, the Edward Snowden scandal has made known extensive and all encompassing data gathering done by the National Security Agency (NSA). This revelation has brought out of the shadows how online and phone information remains unprotected from the prying eyes and ears of the government. Recent data collection cases in the pursuit of terrorists demonstrate clear violations of Fourth Amendment rights guaranteed to by our Constitution. Individual rights should not be violated without cause, consent, or search warrant under the guise of safety.
This issue is not new. During colonial times, citizens of the thirteen colonies endured unfair treatment resulting from the Writs of Assistance that granted British law enforcement broad and nearly unrestricted powers of search and seizure. Private dwellings during this time were subject to searches without particular reason. In response to that unfair treatment, the Fourth Amendment in our Bill of Rights was conceived. Limitations were laid for how far the government could go in their efforts to protect people while allowing civil liberties.
Protections were codified within the Fourth Amendment during the case of Weeks v. United States. The trial brought to light that evidence was collected without a warrant; thus the court ruled the evidence inadmissible. This precedent, called the exclusionary rule, set a legal model for law enforcement to...