Today's news, hardly covered at all on CNN and other popular television news channels, is that the U.S. government is asking internet companies to retain records of ordinary Americans' web-surfing activity for law enforcement use. See Saul Hansell & Eric Lichtblau, U.S. Wants Internet Companies to Keep Web-Surfing Records, New York Times, June 2, 2006, at A17.
Privacy and individual rights seem to have gone down the drain, starting with the original enactment of the so-called Patriot Act and extending through the myriad measures that the Bush Administration has taken to enhance executive power and tie military and domestic spying activities together. We have learned that the NSA has been gathering phone records without following the law that was enacted to stop abuses that occurred during the Nixon administration. We know that the Defense Department is still gathering data for its massive database on ordinary citizens, and we know that the Administration has utilized its powers under the disastrous Patriot Act to gather library records. Now Justice's Gonzales is proposing that Americans should give up their freedom to surf the Web without government intrusion, in order to possibly aid law enforcement against child pornographers.
Let's face it. Law enforcement would love to have a rule that every citizen has to wear a collar that relays exact location and activities 24/7. That would certainly cut down on crime and would help police eliminate sex trafficing, child pornography, robberies and murders. But we have always drawn a line that protects people from that kind of Stalinesque government intervention in our daily lives. We would be utterly foolish to let a terrorist incident like 9/11 be used to strip us of our ability to explore ideas over the internet without being traced by some government snoop. This proposal is a bad idea. It represents the worst of the Bush Administration's propensity to put purported efforts to make us more secure above every precious individual liberty. Congress should not go along with the proposal, and let us hope that the Supreme Court will have the gumption to stand up for individual liberties if the Justice Department decides to go ahead without enabling legislation.