Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wants to read your email. Apparently the "right to privacy" only exists between a woman and her abortion provider. Although it's probably unfair to say that Ms. Napolitano personally wants to read your email.
It's much more likely that she wants to set up a few new government agencies, hire thousands of people on the taxpayers' dime (don't forget about those bloated government pensions!), and have them read your email. So it might be a moot point anyway, since we all know how effective government agencies are -- been to the DMV lately?
Why does Ms. Napolitano want to read your email? To fight terrorism, of course! How silly to even ask. It turns out that terrorists like to communicate with one another via Internet communications. The panty-bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, and Jihad Jane are all big fans of Internet communications.
From the Associated Press:
Fighting homegrown terrorism by monitoring Internet communications is a civil liberties trade-off the U.S. government must make to beef up national security, the nation's homeland security chief said Friday.
"The First Amendment protects radical opinions, but we need the legal tools to do things like monitor the recruitment of terrorists via the Internet," Napolitano told a gathering of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy.
As is usually the case when Janet Napolitano opens her mouth, I have a hard time cataloguing everything that's wrong with what she says.
Let's start with the Constitution, shall we? This is not about the first amendment; it's about the fourteenth. The fourteenth amendment deals with the state and any person's right to life, liberty, or property -- specifically that the state can't seize it without due process of law. Big Brother isn't allowed to open my personal snail mail letters without a warrant, so I'm going to go out on a limb here and apply the same rule to electronic mail.
Moving on to civil liberties trade-off. Let me translate that for you: Loss of civil liberties. What happens when liberty is lost? Tyranny. Raise your hand if you like the idea of living in a tyrannical nation. No one? Is this thing on? Bueller?
Napolitano also states that we must beef up national security. Funny, I thought the system worked. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Now to the heart of the matter: Blaming the Internet for terrorism is like blaming guns for murders, or blaming spoons for obesity. The Internet, firearms, and eating utensils are all tools; nothing more and nothing less. No amount of regulating, banning, or monitoring these tools will change the behavior of the people that use them.
Instead of monitoring private Internet communications, maybe Janet Napolitano could work on an effective plan for actually combating terrorism. I'll throw an idea out there -- instead of worrying about terrorists' rights, why don't we punish them so severely that the next guy will think twice before stuffing a bomb in his underwear?
Just a thought.