In Barack Obama’s tenure as President, he has been involved in numerous actions that many claim violate the Constitution, including the Benghazi attack, the IRS scandal, and his bills to enact gun control and socialize the health care system. But perhaps the most serious attack on the Constitution comes as a result of Edward Snowden’s unauthorized release of documentation of illegal U.S. surveillance of its own citizens and European allies. These activities of the NSA represent a serious breach of the 4th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects American citizens “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” When government surveillance of its citizens was made public, Obama immediately defended the NSA’s actions, claiming through a spokesman that collecting phone and internet data has prevented many terrorist attacks from happening.
It is a fallacy to justify unconstitutional actions on the basis of the good it brings to the American people. As has often been noted, that is the very excuse every dictator has used to justify their coercive and controlling actions. That is why cybersecurity expert and author Bruce Schneier observes: “no one feels more secure in a surveillance state.” We may be more secure against radical Islamists, but in return we feel much less secure against our own government, which has the capacity to turn against us. The immediate response by the controlling powers is to claim, “We are not Hitler. We are not Stalin. We are genuinely concerned with the welfare of the people.” Aside from the fact that Germany would not have given Hitler absolute power had they realized his concern was not the welfare of the people, we are still left with the chilling question, what about your successors? Can you guarantee that those who take power in 10 or 50 years will also be genuinely concerned for the citizens, or is it possible that they will have evil, self-serving purposes and will use the precedent set by today’s well intentioned leaders to exercise tyranny over the people?
The Bill of Rights is in place for a reason. The fixedness of these amendments is due to the universality of the principles they embody. They represent core principles that represent the very rights our forefathers risked their lives to preserve. They also provide protection of the citizens from their own government to A) prevent it from going awry of these principles, and B) replace the government in case it does go awry. for these very reasons the populace must be wary and not trusting of the government when it begins to breach the principles outlined in the Bill of Rights.
With current technology the government is able to listen to phone conversations, read personal emails, and even peer into living rooms without our consent and even without our knowledge. In fact, we already know that the government is engaging in some of these activities, not just with surveillance of terrorists, but according to Snowden, also of our allies. With this technology in the 19th century, an administration sympathetic to the South could have stopped the underground railroad and arrested all the abolitionists. With this technology in the 18th century, a loyalist state could have prevented the American Revolution from taking place. Every government thinks it is fighting for a cause that is worthy. Every government thinks its actions are right and good. But not every government is correct about these assumptions. That is why they need checks and balances. That is why they must listen to the warnings of sympathetic observers, and to the will of the people. For this reason, no government is in the right when it engages in actions that may reasonably be argued to be in violation of its constitution., unless it first engages in full disclosure, letting the public know what it is doing and why. The sin of our government is not simply in engaging in acts that violate the 4th Amendment. The greater sin is in doing it without our knowledge. Perhaps our government ought to pay close attention to events happening in Egypt, where the people, who just won the right to vote in their choice of leader, recently ousted that leader when they saw him violating and rewriting their constitution.
If the American government is honorably and faithfully working to protect the rights of its citizens, then it has no reason to hide its actions from the press and the public. If it is argued that disclosure allows terrorists to cover their tracks, then that is something we will have to live with. But when the government starts snooping into the personal lives of its allies and its law-abiding citizens, at that point the entire democratic process, and with it the American dream, is in jeopardy. If the government is truly acting out of concern for the safety of its citizens, then it will go through due process before engaging in these activities. If everything is above board, then it should be done in the open, not in a dark corner. Although Snowden broke the law when he exposed the NSA’s activities, he was actually doing what the government should have already done: inform the American people of its intentions and its actions. If the NSA’s actions are truly necessary, as President Obama declares, then the people will see that and agree. If the people wrongly disagree, then they, that is, we, will pay the price for it with the shedding of our own blood. We have everything to lose; therefore, we should be trusted to make right decisions about the violation of our privacy; not because we will make the right decision, but because our own lives are at stake, and we must be the ones to decide whether or not to risk our lives for the sake of the Constitution.
People become willing to cheat the system when they no longer trust the system. I will not here try to prove that Barack Obama does not trust the democratic system in America. I think we should dig deeper than simply recognizing the socialist tendencies of some of our leaders. Ultimately, trust in our system, in our democratic process, reduces to trust in God. Systems will fail. But the American system was not founded simply on an idea that it was better than England’s. It was founded on an idea that God would use it to create the greatest nation on earth. John Adams was right when he said: “Our government was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” If we only trust the system to keep terrorists at bay, then we may become terrified at the potential results, because we know our system, like every other government on earth, is flawed and limited. As a result we may try to undermine the system in order to secure our freedom. But if we trust in God, whose Word forms part of the foundation of the laws of this land, then we can stand by our laws and not seek to circumvent the system, maintaining our confidence that God will protect our freedom as long as we trust in him.
The real danger in America is not a socialist takeover of government, or the violation of constitutional amendments. The real danger is the replacement of a God-honoring government for one that is atheistic in practice, if not in philosophy. What America needs most is not to impeach the president or overturn its godless laws. What America needs is to turn to God in humble repentance. If we do this, the rest of the things America needs will follow.