By LOGAN HILL
Rio Blanco County Republican Chair
RBC | We all know the basics of George Orwell’s classic novel, “1984.” In the story, the government watches everybody in their daily lives, looking for “violations.” Neighbors are encouraged to turn in neighbors and privacy is a non-existent dream. During the Cold War East Germany was a living example of this pure statism with their secret police force, the Stasi, which included citizens who spied on the population to watch for sedition.
Some members of our local government are now looking to use technology for their own type of spying leading to a Fourth Amendment violation. According to sources inside the county, County Attorney Kent Borchard and Commissioner Si Woodruff want to use a drone to fly over private property, looking for code violations. This is just the latest in what has been a heavy-handed government push to control private property through enforcing code violations.
This country was founded on a concept of property ownership and individualism. When you own your property, you should be sole proprietor of that land. We supposedly do not support the concept of collective ownership in America. We should live by the saying, “Don’t hurt people, and don’t take their stuff.” Unless something on someone else’s property is doing one of those two things, it is none of your business. Any non-criminal complaint that an individual has against their neighbor should be handled through arbitration or in civil court. Spying on people, violating their Fourth Amendment rights, and hauling them before a local commission to seek fines or even jail time should be anathema to all Americans.
Nationwide, we have had a larger scale version of these concepts. Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, Congress and the President passed the Patriot Act which effectively suspended the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, eliminating the need for a public judge to issue warrants for searches and seizures while allowing a secret FISA court to give enforcers authority to act. This legislation was written many years before 9/11 and lawmakers were just waiting for a good crisis to pull it out and pass it. The Patriot Act expired in 2015 and was immediately replaced by the Freedom Act, effectively the same thing with a different title. Congress, which had been deadlocked for a couple of years, had no problem coming together to pass it.
We know about the real dangers of our government surveillance through heroic whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. He was a man who gave up everything he had to let the American public know what their own government was doing to them. We now know that the National Security Agency is storing all the data from your electronic devices and computers in huge searchable databases. Everything you do electronically is now instantly available to any government official that asks. Unfortunately, not enough people heard, or not enough people cared.
Before you vote in this year’s elections, primary or general, be sure to ask the candidates how they stand on government surveillance. Personally, I will never support a candidate who won’t actively try to move the needle closer to liberty and property rights and farther away from collectivism and government overreach, nor should any real conservative or supporter of the U.S. Constitution.