Vail Daily letter: No right to privacy

What do Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have in common? Allegedly, they each violated the federal government’s purported “right of privacy” (to classified information) — in other words, the government’s alleged right to keep personal information about the American people from the American people.

The government admits that it has no patent or expressed right of privacy to such information under the Constitution, but by way of implication, it avers that it derives that authority pursuant to its endeavors to supposedly protect the people against all foes, domestic or foreign.

Taking the 10th Amendment at face value, if there be a right of privacy, it is reposed in the people of the United States. What is even more confounding is that the government maintains the people do not have a right of privacy, since it is not expressed in the Constitution, and this in light of the 10th Amendment which provides “the powers (expressed) not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

One would then question that if there be a right or privacy power, then in whom is it reposed? The Fourth Amendment would have it with the people: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.”

Ellsberg was prosecuted and then exonerated for divulging the contents of the classified Pentagon Papers to The New York Times back in 1971. Pfc. Manning was prosecuted for revealing classified information about foreign policy matters to Julian Assange. And Snowden is now threatened with prosecution under the Espionage Act of 1917 for his revelations about NSA snooping and eavesdropping into the private communiques between citizens.

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Herein lies the commonality of the “criminality” of these defendants: They each disseminated information of which the government had no claim to privacy.

Ah, but you say that the information was classified by the executive part of our government?

This classification system is the accumulated spawn of Mr. Obama’s executive order in 2009, where in effect he declares that the government has a private right to such information to the exclusion of the American people.

He seemingly says that his executive order trumps the provisions of the Constitution, since he is trying to protect the American people from unknown or imagined enemies by keeping them ignorant of the government’s secrets!

The government does not have an exclusive private right to classified information, since what is declared to be private information is the product of one man’s arbitrary, unilateral and dictatorial fiat, not legislated, not by adjudicated pronouncement, but only by a so-called and self-serving “executive privilege.”

As Justice Louis Brandeis once opined, “The right to privacy is a person’s right to be left alone by the government … the right most valued by civilized men.”

The conduct to be condemned is the government’s secret policies concerning the conduct of the Vietnam war (Pentagon Papers); the devious and disingenuous foreign policy that the U.S. engaged into with foreign nations (Wikileaks); and the government’s (NSA) indiscriminate and warrantless invasion into the privacy of ordinary American citizens via phone records, web interference, and visual surveillance.

Ellsberg, Manning and Snowden are but messengers who revealed the truth to the American people who have a legal right to that information.

Manning and Snowden will be unjustly deprived of their freedom, since there is no law or authority under which the government prosecutes its claims — a tragedy in our day.

Fredric Butler


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