About that splash

Good day, darling IndieRPGs.com visitor! You may be wondering why there’s a weird splash screen about the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution when you visit the site today. The short answer is that the Internet Defense League has undertaken a campaign to protest the surveillance and collection of personal effects (read: emails and phone calls) of both U.S. citizens and international citizens without probable cause in direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. We joined in the SOPA black out, and this is every bit as important as that was, so we’re joining in here as well.

For those who don’t know too much about the Fourth Amendment, here’s a quick primer: it is a bedrock procedural protection against abusive police power here in the United States (and for those of you who aren’t U.S. citizens, you should know that it has been interpreted to apply to non-U.S. citizens as well).

The Fourth Amendment covers virtually all police conduct prior to the moment you’re put on trial. It does everything from stopping the police from breaking into your home and searching it without a warrant to prohibiting the police from stopping you on the street and beating you. It is one of the primary bulwarks against the United States becoming a police state.

If the Fourth Amendment means anything, it means that government officials cannot collect our emails and private online messages without a search warrant. And yet, we now live under a sweeping internet surveillance program known as PRISM; we have a government ordering private companies to turn over private user data en masse without probable cause; we have a Department of Justice that systematically subpoenas personal emails without a warrant; and we have intelligence officials who have lied to Congress about the extent of the spying.

We can thank the Bush administration and a pliant, craven Congress for passing the PATRIOT ACT and its follow-up, the Protect America Act, both of which make this spying possible. We also have the Obama administration and our current Congress to thank for allowing it to continue.

One way or another, it needs to stop. Today is Independence Day in the United States, the anniversary of the day we declared our independence from Britain. The Declaration of Independence is a striking document; if you read its list of complaints, you’ll notice a few things. It refers to the British allowing armed soldiers to run rampant in the colonies, violating the rights of the citizenry with impunity; and it complains of the king preventing the creation of adequate judicial oversight to deal with these armed government employees.

The world was still a century away from the existence of professional municipal police forces at this point; this was about as close to a complaint about the unchecked abuse of police powers as we are likely to have gotten. The Declaration of Independence describes what was, in many ways, the colonial equivalent of a police state.

When we drafted the Constitution and Bill of Rights subsequent to the American Revolutionary War, we included protections against government tyranny that were directly informed by our experience living under the British monarchy. That includes the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We would be fools to recreate ourselves the police state that a prior generation fought so hard to dismantle. This post is my own, small protest at what the U.S. government has done in the name of security.

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