Neither Freedom Nor Safety

Andrew P. Napolitano*

Judge Napolitano

Judge Napolitano

In their continuous efforts to create the impression that the government is doing something to keep Americans safe, politicians in Washington have misled and lied to the public. They have violated their oaths to uphold the Constitution. They have created a false sense of security. And they have dispatched and re-dispatched 60,000 federal agents to intercept the telephone calls, text messages and emails of all Americans all the time.

In the process, while publicly claiming they only acquire identifying metadata -- the time, date, location, duration, telephone numbers and email addresses of communications -- they have in fact surreptitiously gained access to the content of these communications.

On June 1, one of the three claimed legal authorities for all this, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, expired, as Congress was unable to agree on either its reinstitution or the enactment of a substitute. At the time that Section 215 was about to expire, President Obama, Attorney General Lynch and FBI Director Comey warned that the NSA’s computers would go dark and the American public would be at the mercy of our enemies. Their warnings were nonsense.

The NSA is a military entity that utilizes the services of military computer experts and agents, employs civilians, and hires companies that provide thousands of outside contractors. After nearly 14 years of spying on us -- all authorized by a secret court whose judges cannot keep records of what they have ordered or discuss openly what they know -- the NSA now has computers and computer personnel physically located in the main switching offices of all telecom and Internet service providers in the United States. It has 24/7 access to the content of everyone’s telephone calls, emails and text messages.

The data amassed thereby is so vast that the government cannot sift through it quickly or effectively enough to stop such notorious events as the Boston Marathon bombings, the Ft. Hood massacre and the attempted massacre last month outside of Dallas. The Justice Department acknowledged this last month when it revealed that all this spying has not succeeded in stopping any terrorist plots and has not aided any federal prosecutions of terrorism.

Then why do it? Because the feds want to calm American nerves by giving the impression that they are doing something -- even though we know that they know that what they are doing fails to keep us safe. They are giving us a false impression. But they owe us the truth, not falsehoods designed to make themselves look like they are doing what they claim. Their spying has failed to enhance our safety.

It also has failed to protect our freedoms. The Constitution requires probable cause as a precondition for all search warrants. That is a level of evidence about the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized sufficient to induce a judge to conclude that a crime probably has been committed. Without this probable cause requirement, nothing would stop the government from searching and seizing whatever it wants. Yet that is where we are today. The NSA’s unconstitutional standard of “government need” reinstitutes the general warrants -- search where you wish and seize what you find -- which the Fourth Amendment was written to prohibit.

Both the Patriot Act and the Freedom Act, the substitute law enacted by Congress, do away with the probable cause requirement. Both of those laws permit the FISA court to issue general warrants based on the government’s needs, rather than probable cause. It is the government-need standard, which is no standard at all, that has resulted in spying on all persons all the time.

When Section 215 of the Patriot Act expired, the NSA’s legal (yet unconstitutional) authority to spy did not. The propaganda that its computers were shut down is false. Section 702 of the FISA law and President Bush’s October 2001 executive order were and are still valid, and both have been interpreted to unleash the NSA.

Section 702 permits warrantless surveillance of Americans who speak with foreigners, and the NSA has gotten FISA warrants to intercept the calls of the folks to whom those Americans speak, to the sixth degree. That alone encompasses all persons in the United States. Bush’s executive order was given to all military intelligence agencies -- of which the NSA is but one. It instructed the military to intercept the calls and emails of whatever Americans it needs to listen in upon to enhance safety. That executive order still stands. This is why the hand wringing and false claims that the NSA computers went dark is untruthful. The computers violate our privacy and assault our liberty and fail to enhance our safety, but they are not dark.

Last week, one of the pro-spying politicians was clever, even cute, when he issued the one-liner: “You can’t enjoy civil liberties from a coffin.” His statement was a craven articulation of failure. The government’s job is to keep us free and safe. If it keeps us safe but not free, it has failed to do its job. Today it does neither. I suggest to him Patrick Henry on this: “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Which one-liner better embodies American values, history and traditions?

*Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written seven books on the U.S. Constitution.

Race and Freedom

Judge Andrew P. Napolitano*

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Cliven Bundy should be happy for the public revelation of the private comments of fellow racist Donald Sterling; the latter has replaced the former as the person Americans most love to hate. These two bigots recently spewed racial hatred: Bundy suggesting that African-Americans might do well to consider slavery over freedom, and Sterling offering disjointed comments that reveal his evident beliefs in white supremacy.

Bundy is a Nevada rancher who became a hero to the right for standing up to the heavy hand of federal suppression of property rights in the West. He and his family had been grazing their cattle on land they believed was theirs or the state of Nevada’s for more than 100 years, when along came the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which claimed the land and assessed Bundy for his use of it. A federal judge upheld the claims and the million-dollar assessment; yet Bundy refused to pay. Instead of filing the judgment in a courthouse, as you and I would do if we had a judgment against Bundy, the feds showed up with 200 camouflage-clad machine gun-bearing federal agents determined to steal Bundy’s cattle.

Soon, thousands of Nevadans showed up to support Bundy, whereupon the feds enacted a “free speech zone.” They ordered the protesters either to disperse, or to enter the zone and protest there. The zone was a 25-square-yard patch of earth in the Nevada desert, three miles from the Bundy/BLM confrontation site.

Sterling is a billionaire who owns the Los Angeles Clippers of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and was a hero to the left for his public support of liberal causes. He has given generously to the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP and to the Democratic Party in California. He is white, married and apparently enjoys the company of a biracial girlfriend. Recordings of his several wild, weird, disjointed rants directed to the girlfriend and uttered in the privacy of his own home have been played publicly. In them, Sterling directs his girlfriend not to attend Clipper games in the company of her African-American friends.

Both of these men used hateful and hurtful words that were animated by truly condemnable attitudes about race. No moral person credibly could suggest that slavery is preferable to freedom, and no moral person credibly could suggest that whites are superior to blacks in any respect. Those were attitudes advanced by antebellum slave owners and 20th-century supporters of laws that used the machinery of government to harm blacks during the 100 years following the Civil War.

All rational people, understanding the colorblindness of the natural law, have a moral obligation -- but not a legal one -- publicly to treat persons of different races with equal dignity and respect. I can morally prefer a friend or a mate who is of my race, but I cannot morally hate a potential friend or mate just because the person is not of my race. I do not know what is in their hearts, but Bundy and Sterling are apparently haters.

What to do with them because of their speech? Nothing. I mean nothing. Racially hateful speech is protected from government interference by the First Amendment, which largely was written to protect hateful speech. Neither Bundy nor Sterling has been accused in these instances of racially motivated conduct -- just speech animated by hatred.

In the Bundy case, the feds did suppress speech by keeping it three miles away from them. Free speech, assembly and the right to petition the government would become empty and meaningless if the governmental targets of the speech and assembly could not hear it. The First Amendment will condone outlawing the use of a bullhorn by protesters in front of a hospital at 3 o’clock in the morning. But it will not condone free speech zones for the sake of government convenience. The entire United States of America is a free speech zone.

In Sterling’s case, is it fair to punish someone for speech uttered in the privacy of his home? It would be exquisitely unfair for the government to do so, but the NBA is not the government. When Sterling bought his basketball team, he agreed to accept punishment for conduct unbecoming a team owner or conduct detrimental to the sport. Is speech conduct? For constitutional purposes, it is not; the Constitution does not restrain the NBA. It is free to pull the trigger of punishment to which Sterling consented.

But it needn’t do so.

Hateful and hurtful words have natural and probable consequences where the people are free to counter them. The government has no business cleansing the public marketplace of hateful ideas. The most effective equalizer for hatred is the free market. It will remedy Sterling’s hatred far more effectively than the NBA can. As advertisers and sponsors and fans desert Sterling-owned properties, he will be forced to sell them, lest his financial losses become catastrophic. And it has removed Bundy from the public stage altogether.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for the forces of freedom to nullify hatred. Soon the forces of darkness will attempt to do so as creative prosecutors and hungry litigators bring the government into the fray. I hope they stay home and follow the natural law principle of subsidiarity, which mandates that public problems be solved using the minimum force necessary, not the maximum force possible -- and no force at all where peaceful measures are just as effective.

I would not invite Bundy or Sterling into my home, nor would I befriend them. But I will defend with zeal and diligence their constitutional freedoms.

*Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, is the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written seven books on the U.S. Constitution. The most recent is “Theodore and Woodrow: How Two American Presidents Destroyed Constitutional Freedom.”