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Not a bad idea

Dan Savage (yes, the gay sex columnist) is proposing a Constitutional amendment guaranteeing a right to privacy.

Why not? We seem altogether unable to arrive at a national consensus on the whole constitutional right to privacy thing, and this single, unsettled question lies at the heart of the perennial battles that have attended every significant judicial appointment in recent years.

Wouldn't it be best just to go ahead and clarify it, once and for all? Put it in there explicitly, and there will be no room for argument. I honestly believe that if such a proposal were carefully drafted, it would be almost impossible to oppose by enough people to prevent its ratification.

The Constitution hasn't been amended in, what, more than 30 years? We're probably due. And an amendment that actually recaptures the tradition of guaranteeing individual rights would be refreshingly welcome.

(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)


actually the last amendment was ratified back in the mid-1990s, I think...regarding congressionbal pay raises not going into effect till after the next election cycle for something to that effect. It had been before the states for decades and decades.

Actually, the right to privacy is controversial, but not so hard to find as some pretend. Douglas's reading of the Constitution in Griswold v Connecticut is actually very good stuff and not problematic at all. That right to privacy was not controversial until Roe v Wade cited it. Take Roe out of the equation and only the most extreme elements have a problem with it. Any attempt to write such a right into the Constitution, because of the abortion connection, will result in a failure to ratify, which would be bad for the right to privacy generally, apart from the abortion issue. So I wouldn't support any attempt to pass such an amendment without a better chance of passing it. We just don't have leaders with the right sort of character, generally speaking.

Can someone explain the right to privacy to me as if I were a four year old? Because I seriously have never entirely gotten my head around it.

Seriously, I'm opening to door for anyone to talk down to me here. I just don't get it.

Alright, I'll be the "bad guy" here. It's not like it's at all out of character or anything for me. I don't believe there is anything other than the loosest form of "privacy protection" implied in the Constitution.

The Framers certainly opposed the (British Colonialist) government housing soldiers in private homes against the home owner's will, BUT the proscription against UNREASONABLE search and seizure was/is very, very loose and at the time, suspected criminals had almost no "expectation of privacy."

And I believe that's a good thing! A VERY GOOD thing.

The same court that wrote the abominations that were Roe and the 1973 nationwide ban on Capital Punishment, also upheld "the Exclusionary Rule," which barred police from using evidence (even "in-plain-sight evidence") of another crime, when the suspect was stopped on another matter. For instance a murder suspect stopped for speeding, could have a bloody axe lying on the floor of the back seat and that bloody axe could not be used as evidence if garnered without a search warrant by the cop who stopped him for speeding.

A terrible and pro-criminal ruling!

Any fundamental, all encompassing "right to privacy" would make search warrants and wire taps illicit unless real criminal evidence (ironically enough, the kind of evidence sought for with such search warrants and wire taps) were present. In other words, such tools as search warrants and wire taps would be barred unless not really needed (in light of existing evidence).

It would create a veritable shield for pedophiles, whom I'm sure Dan Savage has more than a passing symapthy for. It would make the currently successful undercover stings on pedophiles in internet chat rooms by undercover officers posing as children, unlawful invasions of privacy.

In short, pervs, predators and serial killers would love such a fundamental "right to privacy," as it would make it that much easier for them to victimize others.

"Can someone explain the right to privacy to me as if I were a four year old? Because I seriously have never entirely gotten my head around it." (Adam)

OK, I'm no four year old, so I'll admit I don't have those amazing powers of innocent insight that many of that age innately possess.

I believe I was a four year old once, but I've long since lost that innocence and wonder, despite trying to maintain it via "employment" (loosely defined) in the Fire Dept whose motto is "Either grow up, or become a fireman."

Still, I believe the "right to privacy" is devined from the 4th Amendment's stricture against UNREASONABLE searches and seizures.

Like most things, that qualifier is what's up for interpretation and that's what has resulted in the most controversy. Everyone knows what privacy is, BUT ironically enough the word "privacy" is not used at all in the 4th Amendment. (The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.)

Does that Amendment, as written, guarantee freedom from any "invasion of privacy?"

If it does, then not only does any/every criminal investigation constitute an invasion of privacy, so does every personal background check. For what is "probable cause," especially when there is virtually no evidence, only suspicions at the start of any investigation?

An absolute "right to privacy," one that goes beyond the 4th Amendment and guarantees an unfettered and absolute "right to privacy" would be a boon to predators, as it would make investigating crimes infinitely more arduous and the act of abusing others infinitely easier to get away with.

In many ways, the term "privacy" is almost as outdated as the Middle Ages term "sanctuary." We don't recognize the sanctuary of the Church (the Tawana Brawley case notwithstanding). If Brawley and her Mom didn't surrender to authorities, that would've certainly ended in the breaching of that Church by law enforcement, just as David Koresh's Branch Davidian religious compound offered no sanctuary from federal assault back in 1993.

Today police troll internet chat rooms posing as children to nail pedophiles...and most Americans (by better than a 2 to 1 majority support that).

Cell phone conversations and email exchanges are "fair game" and can be picked up and distributed by both amateurs and professionals alike. Newt Gingrich tried to keep a private, damaging cell phone conversation private, but the courts ruled that the citizen who picked up that conversation with a scanner had the right to do that and to disseminate that through the media.

I like Newt Gingrich! I STILL like Newty. His flaws, whatever they may be, are easily dismissed by me, as we all have human flaws. His are mitigated, in my view because his ideas and ideals are so accurate and so important that they over-ride any of his human flaws.

Still, even in Gingrich's case, though I sympathized with his predicament and certainly have no use for the scum who tried to smear him with that private exchange, I can't support any inherent "right" to privacy that would protect such things.

If anything, it's the "seizures" portion of this Amendment that has been abused, at least in my view. In recent years we've allowed "big government Conservatives" like Rudy Guiliani to circumvent the "unreasonable seizures" phrase by expanding the scope of various RICO statutes, allowing the government to seize the possessions of people unaware that a guest had contraband on their person when entering their property (home, car, boat, etc).

Just my view on the matter.

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