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Forum Post: A possible additional safeguard of our Constitutional rights

Posted 2 years ago on April 12, 2012, 10:35 p.m. EST by ARod1993 (2420)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

This came up in a Facebook discussion I was having with some friends surrounding CISPA (a new bill that would vastly increase the government's power to collect Internet data and then use that data to go after people involved in what they consider cyber-terrorism). The problem with this bill is twofold; first of all, the justification for collecting this data is rather flimsy when compared to the effect on our Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and more importantly the bill could be used to crack down on Internet activity that the government deems unacceptable in much the same way that SOPA would have if passed.

Currently, Facebook of all firms is still backing CISPA, which as far as I'm concerned is unacceptable. It's entirely possible that Zuckerberg hasn't turned on the law for fear of getting sued, but we all know that Facebook is big enough and has enough clout in the corporate world that if push came down to shove and the company wound up on the receiving end of a lawsuit that he could probably throw pricey attorneys at the plaintiff until the plaintiff throws up his hands and walks away, even if the plaintiff is the DOJ or a media conglomerate. I can understand him not wanting to deal with the hassle, but I think it's fair to say that standing up for one's principles is worth a little hassle here and there.

It's not particularly important in this instance whether Zuckerberg believes in standing up for the Constitution (although part of me thinks he ought to and it would be really nice if he did) as long as we can apply enough pressure to get him to do the right thing. Public outcry is great if it works, and if it appears loudly enough and reliably enough over certain issues then it usually will, but that process still has far more conditions required for it to work than I like when it comes to something as basic as respecting our First or Fourth Amendment rights.

Furthermore, I have a serious philosophical problem with this sort of situation; as much as I love Google to death for protecting the Internet and standing up for civil liberties, and as grateful as I'd be if Zuckerberg would clean up his act and fight CISPA with us, I'm fundamentally uncomfortable with the idea that it's their responsibility to stand up for us in Congress. That shouldn't be their job; that should be ours. We the people should have tools directly available to us through the system to allow us to stand up for ourselves when our liberties are threatened.

Under normal circumstances this whole issue would be largely moot, as we would be able to count on Congress not to propose this sort of thing in the first place, the Supreme Court (beyond any reasonable doubt) to throw this out, the ACLU to have a lawsuit prepared before the thing even hits the president's desk, and the president to have promised a veto the minute he got wind of this. All of those safeguards seem to have been shorted out right now, given Congress has in fact put this out there, that I'm not completely sure I can trust the president to veto this, there's no guarantee that the aforementioned veto couldn't be overridden, and five members of the Roberts court seem to be trying to see just how much damage they can do to our civil liberties before they die of old age.

What I'd like to see happen is legislation applying the First and Fourth amendments in the broadest context possible (i.e. the only restricted speech is shouting 'Fire!' in a crowded theater and protests/demonstrations/etc. all count as speech (but money does not), all searches of person or property require a warrant (with a standard of reasonable suspicion in lieu of probable cause applicable solely to convicted felons currently serving prison terms), and an explicit acknowledgement of the right to personal privacy, the "overturn Roe v. Wade" group be damned), and a reevaluation of our justice system to try to bring it more into line with the spirit of the Sixth and Eighth Amendments.

Further, what I'd like to do is institute an impoundment protocol for legislation that strays into Constitutionally protected territory (unfortunately, that would require a Constitutional amendment to make happen). What I envision is a ninety-day post-passage period between when legislation is signed (or passed over a veto) and when it is placed into effect. During that window, any citizen may bring a Constitutional challenge to that legislation, and after a challenge is brought the legislation would be automatically sent first to the Supreme Court for evaluation and then to the citizenry at large for a referendum (implementation would be suspended pending the outcome of these two procedures). The procedure would be mostly an AND gate (both the courts and 51% of the people would have to sign off for something to get through) with the exception that a 90% majority in favor of new laws would allow for probationary implementation over the objections of the Supreme Court(reauthorization required every year). If the numbers stay at 90% for four or five years in a row(or the court changes its mind), then the law has passed probation and becomes permanent. Any thoughts?

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2 Comments


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[-] 1 points by me2 (534) 2 years ago

Remember "I'm just a bill, sitting here on capital hill? " That little ditty will have to be rewritten to resemble something more along the lines of Pink Floyd's "Echoes."

That, and no law will ever be passed again. So that's probably a plus.

[-] 1 points by ARod1993 (2420) 2 years ago

I'm curious why you say that; would you mind elaborating further?

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