Article 12

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, or or correspondence, or to attacks upon his honor and reputation. Everyone has the right to protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

The struggle between liberty and security will probably always be with us, and on the front lines of that struggle will always be the debate over where the right to privacy ends and the need for information begins. It is important to note that this Article contains the word “arbitrary.” When we talk about rights it is easy to convince ourselves that rights are absolute and exist in a vacuum, untouched by the needs of larger society.

The state does have the right, for the benefit of all our safety, to infringe on our right to privacy. It has the right, the obligation even, to search our persons for evidence of legitimate wrong doing, after it has followed all due process and has shown that it has good cause to believe we have engaged in legitimate wrong doing. There are, in case you did not notice, quite a few caveats in that last sentence.

First and foremost, the wrongdoing has to be legitimate. The state should not be allowed to infringe on our right to privacy to uphold its infringement of other rights. Second of all there has to be just cause. Random searches to smoke out a wrongdoer terrorize the public at large. There has to be some small proof to begin with that the person searched is an actual suspect.

That will all seem obvious to anyone one with even a little knowledge of American history and civics. Still,we have seen since 9/11/01 an erosion of this idea. The government has engaged in warrantless wiretapping largely unchallenged. With the federal government showing so little restraint in violating citizens privacy is it any surprise that schools do it, or employers?

From a cultural standpoint I have to say that this is one of the areas I am proudest of my fellow Americans for. With the exception of a few extremely partisan hacks we are rarely hypocrites about this and we all are shocked and angered when the government starts poking its nose around without cause. Oh, you still get a few “if you’ve got nothing to hide why are you worried types,” but really they are an obnoxious minority.

Which is excellent, because our best defense against tyranny is our sheer numbers. Ultimately the only power we have is each other, but man-oh-man, what power that is. Keep the pressure on. I don’t care if you are a Democrat and fan of President Obama, or if you are a Republican that backed Bush. We have to draw a line in the sand  somewhere, and that it absolutely, and bare minimum, be drawn at the entrance to our own homes.


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