Archive for the ‘Privacy & Civil Liberties’ Category

General Petraeus and Privacy

Whatever one may think of the indiscretions of CIA Director Petraeus, there is something deliciously ironic and incredibly scary in the nation’s top spook getting entangled in the public disclosure of private e-mails. As the Executive Director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center stated to the Washington Post,  “[i]f the C.I.A. director can get caught, it’s pretty much open season on everyone else.”  What nobody understands is how prophetic these words actually are.

With access to e-mails and other electronic trails, there is exponential linkage to every scandal. Think the Kevin Bacon Game or Six Degrees of Separation and it won’t take long to link you to Paula Broadwell, Jill Kelley and General Petraeus. This underscores the critical need to restrict government control of and access to private information, as well as the importance of establishing strong rules regarding the unauthorized use of such information by government and private businesses.

Our current legal framework to protect privacy is akin to the color coded terror alerts that did nothing to protect us, but did everything to scare us.  Lip service to the idea of privacy is no more useful. If we are going to protect our privacy, we need to hold accountable those who violate our privacy with something more robust than a notification your privacy has been breached. Privacy rights with no remedies provide no rights at all. All it does is create an open season on us all.


Whatever Happened to the VII Amendment?

Odds are that you probably don’t even know what the VII Amendment is (the Right to Trial by Jury in Civil Suites). But, being part of the Bill of Rights set forth in the first ten amendments to the Constitution, you probably also think it must have some fundamental importance to our rights as Americans. To be sure, the VII Amendment is vital to the integrity of our judicial process and the health of our third branch (the Judiciary) of government. But, under the guise of forced arbitration, your VII Amendment rights have been eliminated.

The Seventh Amendment states:

“In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right to trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examine in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”

The language is clear. The right to trial by jury, SHALL be preserved. Yet astonishingly, the Supreme Court recently held in another 5–4 decision, that corporations may unilaterally insert a contract provision into your consumer contract that requires you to arbitrate, on your own, any dispute you may have with the company. This cannot stand.

In an age of passionate debate about the role of government and the intent of the Founding Fathers, there is hardly a day that passes by without earnest discussion of the freedoms and obstacles embodied in the Bill of Rights. Some of those rights are more well known, like Freedom of Expression (1st) and the the Right to Bear Arms (2nd). Others we have absorbed through popular police dramas, like the prohibition against Unreasonable Search and Seizure (4th), the Right Against Self-Incrimination (5th),the Right to a Speedy Trial with the Assistance of Counsel (6th) and the Prohibition Against Cruel and Unusual Punishment (8th).

We appear to have forgotten the 7th Amendment. Arbitration is a direct assault on your Bill of Rights. If Corporate America can successfully take away one of your fundamental rights, corporations and government can take away the rest. That is something we should all be talking about.