Education: Free & Compulsory?

Mind control is often described as some nefarious method or technology by which individuals are forced to accept certain ideas. Not only is there a particular absence of intellectual curiosity, but one’s very perception of reality is usually obfuscated beyond empirical skepticism. Government monopolies further exacerbate this problem, for their initiatory force coerces people to do that which they would otherwise not do of their own accord.

 

 

European schooling became seduced by the Prussian educational style, which embraced authoritarian indoctrination. Rothbard explains that:

 

“These beginnings were carried forward by… Frederick the Great, who vigorously reasserted the principle of compulsory attendance in the state schools, and established the flourishing national system, particularly in his Landschulreglement of 1763. What were the goals that animated Frederick the Great? Again, a fervent belief in absolute despotism, although this was supposed to be ‘enlightened’… He was particularly fond of the army, spent public funds freely upon it, and inculcated especially constant drill and the strictest discipline.”

 

Perhaps Frederick’s affection for the army is just a coincidence with relation to his insistence on truancy laws:

 

“Furthermore, there were stringent laws obliging parents to send their children to the schools. Children must attend the schools between the ages of seven and fourteen, and no excuses were permitted except physical inability or absolute idiocy. Parents of truants were warned, and finally punished by fines, or by civil disabilities, and as a last resort, the child was taken from its parents and educated and reared by the local authorities.”

 

I wonder if Frederick ever reallocated those truancy fines towards his military? Even so, I’d hope that the European intelligentsia recognized the just authority of parents over their own children:

 

“The compulsory state system already developed was grist for the totalitarian mill. At the base of totalitarianism and compulsory education is the idea that children belong to the State rather than to their parents. One of the leading promoters of that idea in Europe was the famous Marquis de Sade, who insisted that children are the property of the State.”

 

Well, so much for a “family values” argument. If some degenerate womanizer expresses unmitigated reverence for the government over that of the family unit, then that would explain a whole lot about him, wouldn’t it? When combined with the Lutheran insistence on theocratic nonsense being shoved down children’s throats, then this would suggest that the advocates of European government schooling were a match made in hell.

Surely, though, that’s just a European problem on the other side of the pond, and therefore something like that couldn’t possibly affect us here in America, right? Wrong:

 

“In the majority of American colonies, education was in the English tradition, i.e., voluntary parental education, with the only public schools being those established for poor families free to make use of the facilities. This system originated in the Middle and in the Southern colonies. The crucial exception was New England, the sparkplug of the collectivist educational system in America. In contrast to the other colonies, New England was dominated by the Calvinist tradition, among the English Puritans who settled Massachusetts, and later the other New England colonies. The ruthless and ascetic Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony were eager to adopt the Calvinist plan of compulsory education in order to insure the creation of good Calvinists and the suppression of any possible dissent. Only a year after its first set of particular laws, the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1642 enacted a compulsory literacy law for all children. Furthermore, whenever the state officials judged that the parents or guardians were unfit or unable to take care of the children properly, the state could seize the children and apprentice them to the state appointees, who would give them the required instruction.”

 

Ah, there’s that religious zealotry again, nearly always trying to use the coercive power of the State to further proselytize their faith. I wonder if perhaps there is a faux “equality” agenda coupled with this scheme:

 

“As early as 1785, the Rev. Jeremy Belknap, preaching before the New Hampshire General Court, advocated equal and compulsory education for all, emphasizing that the children belong to the State and not to their parents. The influential Benjamin Rush wanted general education in order to establish a uniform, homogeneous, and egalitarian nation….Furthermore, the spirit of the schools had changed from philanthropy to the poor to something which all children were induced to attend. By 1850, every state had a network of free public schools.”

 

Just as the Puritans stripped Quaker women down to their waists and forced them to run the gauntlet, these educational monopolists are copying the blueprint for authoritarian schooling from their European counterparts. Whether it be on religious or secular grounds, men like Jeremy Belknap and the Marquis de Sade seem all too eager to promote statism in order to advance their own ends at the expense of future generations.

In light of Dr. Benjamin Rush’s preference for such a monopoly, would it be wise to ask at this point as to what was the Founding Fathers’ overall republican attitude towards education? Dr. Rothbard tells us that:

 

“It is important to consider the goals of the establishment of public schools, particularly since professional educators were the prime force in both the establishment of free common schools and of compulsory instruction. In the first place, the desire for public schools by such quasi-libertarians as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine was based on a belief that republican government is best suited for well-schooled citizens, and that the government should make such institutions available for those too poor to afford them privately. Certainly, many of those who advocated the establishment of public schools did it simply for this reason.”

 

So, what began with the best of intentions eventually (or perhaps inevitably) gave rise to the modern “public” school apparatus, which too many children today suffer under:

 

“Thus, we see that a new element has been introduced into the old use of compulsory education on behalf of State absolutism. A second goal is absolute equality and uniformity, and a compulsory school system was seen by Owen and Wright to be ideally suited to this task. First, the habits and minds and feelings of all the children must be molded into absolute equality; and then the nation will be ripe for the final step of equalization of property and incomes by means of State coercion.”

 

Doesn’t this insistence on forced “equality” sound reminiscent of the tenth plank of the communist manifesto? Maybe the Founders didn’t intend their (genuinely) public schools to go down this path:

 

“It is evident that the common enthusiasm for equality is, in the fundamental sense, anti-human. It tends to repress the flowering of individual personality and diversity, and civilization itself; it is a drive toward savage uniformity. Since abilities and interests are naturally diverse, a drive toward making people equal in all or most respects is necessarily a leveling downward. It is a drive against development of talent, genius, variety, and reasoning power. Since it negates the very principles of human life and human growth, the creed of equality and uniformity is a creed of death and destruction.”

 

Reformists would likely mention at this point that depoliticizing education is the solution to everything wrong with the government schools; yet, how can that be when the bureaucracy is intrinsically aiding and abetting the problem in the first place? As Rothbard points out:

 

“The government bureaucracy has fostered Civil Service as an extraordinarily powerful tool of entrenchment and permanent domination. Tyranny by majority vote may be unpleasant enough, but at least if the rulers are subject to democratic checks, they have to please the majority of the voters. But government officials who cannot be voted out at the next election are not subject to any democratic check whatever. They are permanent tyrants. ‘Taking something out of politics’ by putting it under Civil Service certainly does ‘increase the morale’ of the bureaucracy. It elevates them into near-perpetual absolute rulers in their sphere of activity. The fact that teachers are under Civil Service is one of the most damning indictments against the American compulsory system of today.”

 

This makes a whole lot of sense when you also consider the pernicious effects that the teachers’ unions have on “public policy” decisions by the legislative branch of government; consider also the ubiquity of the administrative agencies.

Who is most harmed by these authoritarian educational policies? Consider Rothbard’s comparison of John Stuart Mill with Herbert Spencer on this topic:

 

“Mill’s argument for compelling education was successfully refuted by Spencer in Social Statics. Mill had asserted that in education the consumer does not know what is best for him, and that therefore the government is justified in intervening. Yet, as Spencer points out, this has been the excuse for almost every exercise in State tyranny. The only proper test of worth is the judgment of the consumer who actually uses the product. And the State’s judgment is bound to be governed by its own despotic interests.”

 

Okay, but that begs the question as to who the “consumer” in question is; as far as I can tell, it could only be either parents, children, or both. Rothbard upheld parental rights over children:

 

“Obviously, the worst injustice is the prevention of parental teaching of their own children. Parental instruction conforms to the ideal arrangement. It is, first of all, individualized instruction, the teacher dealing directly with the unique child, and addressing himself to his capabilities and interests. Second, what people can know the aptitudes and personality of the child better than his own parents? The parents’ daily familiarity with, and love for, their children, renders them uniquely qualified to give the child the formal instruction necessary. Here the child receives individual attention for his own personality. No one is as qualified as the parent to know how much or at what pace he should teach the child, what the child’s requirements are for freedom or guidance, etc.”

 

Put another way, a parent’s natural authority over their own child directly benefits the child’s own self-determination (or at least, more often than not). Aren’t private schools just as good as homeschooling, though? Rothbard says:

 

“The effect of the State’s compulsory schooling laws is not only to repress the growth of specialized, partly individualized, private schools for the needs of various types of children. It also prevents the education of the child by the people who, in many respects, are best qualified—his parents. The effect is also to force into schools children who have little or no aptitude for instruction at all.”

 

This would seem to indicate that Rothbard thinks of private schools as compromised institutions, and as such, have been rendered ineffective and impotent by the State. Although, what exactly is the issue being contested here? Rothbard explains that:

 

“The issue which has been joined in the past and in the present is: shall there be a free society with parental control, or a despotism with State control? We shall see the logical development of the idea of State encroachment and control. America, for example, began, for the most part, with a system of either completely private or with philanthropic schools. Then, in the nineteenth century, the concept of public education changed subtly, until everybody was urged to go to the public school, and private schools were accused of being divisive. Finally, the State imposed compulsory education on the people, either forcing children to go to public schools or else setting up arbitrary standards for private schools. Parental instruction was frowned on. Thus, the State has been warring with parents for control over their children.” [emphasis added]

 

Little by little, statists used the Fabian socialist methods of legislation, propaganda, and social engineering to fundamentally alter the American way of life away from the principles of liberty to their radical utopian society under the boot of absolute government.

Murray Rothbard’s Education: Free & Compulsory is the best comprehensive argument I’ve read against the government monopoly “service” of “public” education. Rothbard perfectly lays out why government schooling violates the non-coercion principle, which was something that Charlotte Iserbyt and even John Gatto conveniently left out in their own respective polemics. As Rothbard pointed out:

 

“One of the best ways of regarding the problem of compulsory education is to think of the almost exact analogy in the area of that other great educational medium—the newspaper. What would we think of a proposal for the government, Federal or State, to use the taxpayers’ money to set up a nationwide chain of public newspapers, and compel all people, or all children, to read them? What would we think furthermore of the government’s outlawing all other newspapers, or indeed outlawing all newspapers that do not come up to the ‘standards’ of what a government commission thinks children ought to read? Such a proposal would be generally regarded with horror in America, and yet this is exactly the sort of regime that the government has established in the sphere of scholastic instruction.”

 

If it is absurd to give legitimacy to, say, the corporate mainstream media cartel, then why on God’s green earth would anyone do the same with government monopolized schooling? I think it high time more of us pay heed to Dr. Rothbard’s observations regarding statist indoctrination, for if we neglect to teach the next generation the principles of liberty through truly free market educational services, then any long-term attempts by us to restore our liberty (or otherwise abolish this despotism) might as well become a lost cause.

A History of Dragnet Wiretapping

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Politicians insist that the government has a “right to know” about the intimate details of an entire citizenry. What they fail to realize is that governments do not have rights, which also means that the government has no inherent right to know anything about anybody. Despite this fundamental truth, these self-imagined rulers arrogantly demand that Americans acquiesce to these invasions of privacy on the grounds of whatever their latest crusade happens to be, yet they insist on maintaining their state secrets privilege. Their desire for the government to become nearly omniscient is so self-evidently dangerous to liberty that their attempts to implement a panopticon ought be commonly resisted.

 

 

Wiretapping is but just one method of surveillance whose technological and historical antecedent would most likely be the interception of mail. During the American colonial period, the King’s mandate sanctioned the government’s ability to intercept all mail within the British Empire. In post-revolutionary France, Joseph Fouché intercepted the mails for Napoleon Bonaparte, and José Rodriguez de Francia intercepted Paraguayan mail throughout the early 19th century. Once the telephone was invented in 1876, it provided yet another way for governments to commit espionage against their own citizens, just like how Nicolae Ceaușescu’s Securitate combined the techniques of intercepting both mail and telephone communications in Romania.

 

The Science of Wiretapping

Unlike a sealed envelope, however, the science of the telephone itself does not value individual privacy. Telephones were originally designed to overcome a human limitation, namely, the need to be in the same physical space before talking to someone else during the same moment of time. Once this had been achieved, it was not too long before it was being exploited for a variety of purposes, not only due to its simplistic design, but also because there was little interest in preventing eavesdropping. Wiretapping differs from eavesdropping insofar as wiretapping is one technique of eavesdropping, but not all eavesdropping is wiretapping, as evidenced by putting your ear against a wall or door in order to better listen to the voices on the other side.

Simply put, wiretapping is the act of intercepting telephonic communications; this could be done by installing either hardwire taps or a transmitting bug within a wall socket, the telephone’s handset, on a nearby telephone pole’s utility junction box, a telephone switching station, or the interception of transmissions by other means, such as snatching radio waves out of the air. Whether it be by landline, cordless, cellular, satellite, ham radio, or VoIP, modern telephony is considered private only to the extent that there is a cultural expectation that it should be so, but not so with regards to the inherent nature of the technology itself. What the science of wiretapping appears to tell us is that it is foolish to project one’s false sense of security by crying “foul” after the fact; however, this is not to imply that technological countermeasures shouldn’t be implemented, for anyone who is serious about his own privacy should move heaven and earth to do so.

 

The Origins of the National Security Agency

President Harry Truman unilaterally created the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952, specifically for the reason of preventing another Pearl Harbor surprise attack by way of using signals intelligence (SIGINT). In 1976, the Church Committee hearings revealed that the NSA had exceeded its foreign intelligence surveillance mandate by monitoring the communications of American citizens whom it deemed were engaging in activities that threatened national security. The committee’s summary of problems included the finding that:

 

Governmental officials – including those whose principal duty is to enforce the law – have violated or ignored the law over long periods of time and have advocated and defended their right to break the law.” [emphasis added]

 

Ironically, these illegal abuses by NSA occurred alongside Ceaușescu’s Securitate similarly tapping Romanian telephones during the Cold War. Despite another 25 years to get its act together, NSA not only failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks, but its own internal security was discovered to have been breached a week after the attacks. Without missing a beat, the NSA and rest of the United States intelligence community lobbied Congress to grant them more power as a reward for their infamous failures, and all in the name of national security for this brand new “War on Terror,” whom Brigadier General (now Lieutenant General) Mark Schissler said will go on for another 50 – 100 years.

Government propagandists will convince people there are dangers that only they can protect us from, but in order to do so, they must first infringe upon our freedoms. From early 20th century organized crime and Cold War communism to modern “terrorism,” civil servants have regularly sought any excuse to increase their power, regardless of who gets hurt in the process, as mere collateral damage. These convenient bogeymen serve their roles well in the quest for inculcating a climate of unjustified fear, which is used by policy makers as a false pretext to make laws hostile to the U.S. Constitution and the American way of life.

 

The Legality of  Wiretapping

Constitutionally, the Fourth Amendment’s Search & Seizure Clause says:

 

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

 

For the sake of political expediency in the wake of 9/11, former President George W. Bush’s White House asserted that pursuant to the Art. II § 2 cl. 1 delegated power as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Navy of the United States (and of the Militia of the several States), the Executive Office of the President enjoyed the implied power to wiretap anyone merely suspected of threatening national security. Despite the fact that the Congress has not declared war since World War II (pursuant to Art. I § 8), the executive branch unilaterally assumed a wartime authority to run roughshod over the Fourth Amendment.

Statutorily, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978 was passed by the Congress into law as the intended political reform in the aftermath of the Church Committee’s discovery about the NSA’s Project MINARET. FISA created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), whose duty it was to determine whether secretive warrants should be issued against suspected foreign spies. The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) of 1994 mandated that telecommunications providers give law enforcement agencies backdoors for the purpose of easier wiretapping (eventually for VoIP calls in 2005), and the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism (USA PATRIOT) Act of 2001 expanded the FISC’s secret warrants to permit “roving wiretaps,” which lack the specificity required by the Fourth Amendment, and therefore increase the likelihood of incidental intercepts. Ironically, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 was passed by the Congress into law as the political reform intended to address the abuses caused by the NSA’s Stellar Wind surveillance program, thereby repeating what had been done exactly three decades previously.

Judicially, the 1928 Olmstead v. United States case ruled that the Fourth Amendment’s Search and Seizure Clause did not apply to the use of wiretaps by federal agents, even if in violation of state law, yet almost 40 years later, Katz v. United States ruled that the Search & Seizure Clause does protect individuals using a telephone booth from warrantless eavesdropping. In his dissenting opinion in Olmstead, Judge Louie Brandeis wrote:

 

Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means – to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal – would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.” [emphasis added]

 

Similarly, Judge William Douglas’ concurring opinion in the 1972 United States v. U.S. District Court (aka, the Keith case) said:

 

“That ‘domestic security’ is said to be involved here does not draw this case outside the mainstream of Fourth Amendment law. Rather, the recurring desire of reigning officials to employ dragnet techniques to intimidate their critics lies at the core of that prohibition. For it was such excesses as the use of general warrants and the writs of assistance that led to the ratification of the Fourth Amendment.” [emphasis added]

 

As you could probably tell, the federal judiciary’s attitude towards wiretapping (at least before 9/11) wasn’t so much about the “reasonableness” of the search and/or seizure in question as it was about the Fourth Amendment’s Warrant Clause, which says:

 

“…and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

 

In other words, the very lack of specificity is unreasonable, exceptions to the Warrant Clause notwithstanding. Supreme Court judges did not want to be perceived as hypocrites, so they devised an interpretative scheme whereby as long as warrants did not emulate a writ of assistance, then it would be appropriate for the courts to try and rationalize the demands of the executive branch against the individual privacy of the average American citizen.

Although this was the United States Supreme Court’s rather moderate position before 9/11, the federal district and appellate judiciary’s attitude after 9/11 seems quite authoritarian. Judge Lewis Kaplan’s 2006 memorandum opinion in United States v. Tomero, et. al. for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled that the FBI’s installation of roving wiretap bugs in the defendants’ cell phones were not unconstitutional. A year later, Judge Alice Batchelder wrote the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit’s 2007 decision in ACLU v. NSA, where the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the NSA’s Stellar Wind surveillance program because they couldn’t prove they were directly targeted by it.

The 2011 Hepting v. AT&T Corp. ruling, written by Judge M. Margaret McKeown on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, found that legal immunity (against being sued) for the telecommunications companies under § 802 of FISA (which is cross-listed under Title 50 USC § 1885a) was constitutional. Several months later in 2012, Judge Raymond Fisher conveyed the appellate Ninth Circuit’s ruling in United States v. Olivia that the electronic surveillance orders only authorized “standard interception techniques,” and therefore did not convert the defendant’s cellular telephone into a roving wiretap bug, despite the fact that the police turned the phone into a roving wiretap. Finally, the Jewel v. NSA lawsuit (which claimed that Room 641A inside the SBC Communications building was involved in a an NSA dragnet surveillance operation) was dismissed in February of 2015 by Judge Jeffrey White in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on the grounds that not only could former AT&T technician Mark Klein not determine “the content, function, or purpose” of Room 641A, but also that the plaintiffs failed to established “a sufficient factual basis…[that] they have standing to sue under the Fourth Amendment regarding the possible interception of their Internet communications.”

Despite the fact that there was no foreign intelligence exception to the Warrant Clause in either the Tomero or Olivia cases, the federal judiciary frequently use the excuse of statutory construction in order to perform an end run around the Fourth Amendment. This not only contradicts the Keith case, but it also proves both the Church Committee’s findings and Judge Brandeis’ dissent in Olmstead in the ensuing years. Constitutional avoidance, much?

 

Contemporary Wiretapping

ECHELON is the code name for some of the SIGINT stations that operate under the auspices of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which functions according to the terms of the then secret treaty known as the UKUSA Agreement. Right off the bat, there is a question of constitutionality here, for the Advice & Consent Clause (Art. II § 2 cl. 2) says, in part:

 

“He [the President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur…”

 

There is no public record available testifying to the fact that the U.S. Senate ever ratified any treaty with either England, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand, since the end of the Second World War, to openly share signals intelligence. Not only that, but it wasn’t until July of 2001 when the European Union Parliament issued a report confirming the existence of ECHELON, the UKUSA Agreement, and the Five Eyes SIGINT network.

What is truly disconcerting, though, is that as the foundational basis for the UKUSA Agreement, the NSA works around statutory limitations, like FISA, by having either the Communications Security Establishment, the Government Communications Headquarters, the Australian Signals Directorate, or the Government Communications Security Bureau collect SIGINT from Americans, who then turn around and hand it to the NSA for whatever “national security” purposes they see fit to exercise, such as building the Utah Data Center in order to store massive amounts of information.

For all intents and purposes, the UKUSA Agreement has permitted these four other governments to commit espionage against Americans, and then share that information with the NSA, thereby circumventing the Constitution.

Relying on a combination of transatlantic underwater cables and orbital geostationary satellite uplinks and downlinks, ECHELON provided the framework necessary to implement a plethora of wiretapping tools. For instance, both PRISM and MUSCULAR collect not only metadata, but also the content of VoIP calls. Whether or not black rooms like Room 641A or the roving wiretap bugs have anything to do with the NSA is anyone’s guess, but what all of them demonstrate is that the federal government does not care about your individual privacy, and even less so about the rule of law.

Take, for instance, how the federal government treats NSA whistleblowers. Perry Fellwock, Russell Tice, Thomas Tamm, William Binney, Thomas Drake, and Ed Snowden have all been persecuted by the United States government. Costly litigation, pension revocations, and seeking political asylum as a fugitive are but just some of the consequences experienced by these whistleblowers, who under pain of individual conscience, chose to reveal the abuses perpetrated by the NSA. Accusations that these whistleblowers are so-called “limited hangouts” ought to placed under scrutiny for ulterior motives.

Let us now review this history of dragnet wiretapping. The sequence of events are as follows:

  • 1760s – 1770s: colonial mail intercepted by Redcoats
  • 1799 – 1814: Joseph Fouché intercepted French mail for Napoleon Bonaparte
  • 1814 – 1840: José Rodriguez de Francia intercepted Paraguayan mail
  • 1876: the invention of the telephone
  • 1928: Olmstead v. United States, 277 US 438
  • 1952: President Truman’s memo creating NSA
  • 1955: updated UKUSA Agreement
  • 1965: Nicolae Ceaușescu began interception of Romanian mail & wiretapping
  • 1967: Katz v. United States, 389 US 347
  • 1968: Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (aka, the “Wiretap Statute”)
  • 1972: United States v. U.S. District Court, 407 US 297
  • 1976: Church Committee hearings
  • 1978: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)
  • 1988: Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA)
  • 1989: Ceaușescu executed by firing squad; mail interception & wiretapping ended
  • 1994: Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA)
  • 1998: Hollywood film Enemy of the State released into theaters
  • 2001, July: EU Parliament report on ECHELON
  • 2001, October: USA PATRIOT Act
  • 2004: A False Sense of Insecurity? article
    • A libertarian analyst evaluated the true risk of “terrorism”
  • 2005: Stellar Wind publicly revealed
  • 2006: United States v. Tomero, S2 06 Crim. 0008
  • 2007: ACLU v. NSA, Nos. 06-2095/2140
  • 2008: FISA Amendments Act
  • 2011: Hepting v. AT&T Corp., No. 09-16676
  • 2012: United States v. Olivia, No. 10-30126
  • 2013: Liberty & Security in a Changing World report
    • The Obama White House’s official story after Ed Snowden’s leaks
  • 2015: Jewel v. NSA, No. 08-04373

This chronology demonstrates that the interception of communications, and wiretapping specifically, is nothing new. Whether it is by way of legislation or court precedent, the American federal government absolutely refuses to be bound within the chains imposed upon it by the U.S. Constitution. No amount of reformism will reign in the persistent abuses by the NSA. What it can’t take by a large bite, they will take by smaller bites. Nothing less than total abolishment of this nefarious administrative agency would even begin to satisfy the demands of natural justice.


Counter-Wiretapping Remedies

Fortunately, the cypherpunks and crypto-anarchists are here to help Americans fend off the NSA in the ongoing crypto wars. An eclectic mixture of free and open-source software, public-key cryptography, and end-to-end encryption can be used to supply the market demand for inexpensively available secure telephones, whose development should not be as elusive as that of cold fusion. Since encryption is like a sealed envelope, nearly all popular voice communications might as well be verbal postcards. If the OpenPGP standard is already used to encrypt email, and OTR is similarly being used to encrypt instant messages, then there is no good reason that I can fathom as to why ZRTP (Zimmerman Real-time Transport Protocol), or similar software, cannot be built to encrypt at least VoIP, if not also cellular, calls. We need to use secure communications, if we’re going to have a reasonable expectation of privacy. This becomes particularly critical for security teams, local Committees of Safety, and any other communications that you feel that the government should not have access to.

With every failure, government is rewarded with more power. From Pearl Harbor to the Boston Marathon bombing, the NSA is not only a catastrophic lead balloon, but also the ears of, what some might call, the slowly emerging New World Order. Because of dragnet wiretapping’s inherent threat to individual privacy is why the adage, “Don’t say anything on the phone you wouldn’t also be comfortable repeating in front of a cop, a judge, or a jury,” carries so much sway. As Eric Hughes wrote back in 1993:

 

“Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world…[t]o encrypt is to indicate the desire for privacy, and to encrypt with weak cryptography is to indicate not too much desire for privacy…[w]e must defend our own privacy if we expect to have any. We must come together and create systems which allow anonymous transactions to take place. People have been defending their own privacy for centuries with whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers. The technologies of the past did not allow for strong privacy, but electronic technologies do.”

 

Free market technology, not government law, is the solution. Do we want to resort to “whispers, darkness, envelopes, closed doors, secret handshakes, and couriers,” or do we want to pursue modern techniques for the maintenance of our right to privacy, as enumerated by the Fourth Amendment, as the Framers intended? About 87 years have passed since the Olmstead ruling, and I’ll be damned if another decade goes by without me pulling my weight for the cause of liberty. And now that you have read this history of wiretapping, you must ask yourself, are you interested?