President George W. Bush was fond of saying that “9/11 changed everything.” He used that one-liner often as a purported moral basis to justify the radical restructuring of federal law and the federal assault on personal liberties over which he presided. He cast aside his oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution; he rejected his oath to enforce all federal laws faithfully; and he moved the government decidedly in the direction of secret laws, secret procedures and secret courts.
During his presidency, Congress enacted the Patriot Act. This legislation permits federal agents to write their own search warrants when those warrants are served on custodians of records — like doctors, lawyers, telecoms, computer servers, banks and even the U.S. Postal Service.
Such purported statutory authority directly violates the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees the right to privacy in our “persons, houses, papers and effects.” That includes just about everything held by the custodians of our records. Privacy is not only a constitutional right protected by the document; it is also a natural right. We possess the right to privacy by virtue of our humanity. Our rights come from within us — whether you believe we are the highest progression of biological forces or the intended creations of an Almighty God — they do not come from the government.
This is not an academic argument. If our rights come from within us, the government cannot take them away, whether by executive fiat, popular legislation or judicial ruling, unless we individually have waived them. If our rights come from the government, then they are not rights, but permission slips.