Liberty, except talking to your spouse

In a recent post titled “The Patriot Act: I Know What It’s Like“, Peter Chase writes:

I am a board member for Library Connections, a consortium of 26 Connecticut libraries. In May of 2005 our organization received a National Security Letter (NSL). An NSL allows the FBI to demand records, in this case our library patrons’ internet usage, without prior court approval. We were forbidden to tell anyone about the NSL, gagged from telling our colleagues, or our spouses.

So, they were ordered to cough up private records of what people were reading, without any judicial oversight. That alone goes beyond the pale and should literally scare anyone who truly believes in our form of government. But hey, that’s the whole NSL/Patriot_Act thing is all about, removing the checks and balances that try to keep government honest.

What bothers me even more, however, is the accompanying gag order. Not only have you been ordered to do something by some nameless, faceless entity who faces no oversight over the exercise of that authority or repercussions for improper use of that authority, but you are then told that you can tell no one about the abuse!

Note the bit about not telling one’s spouse, which I find particularly offensive. In essence, it means that the government believes that it has the right to govern conversations between my wife and I. I’m sorry, USA, as much as I love you, I will never accept your authority to tell me what I can and what I cannot discuss with my wife. Period. End of story. In fact, I will vigorously defend not only my right to discuss any matter I choose with my spouse, but also with my children. And parents. And any other personal friends I respect and trust. And if you want to throw around legal documents, I will demand the right to discuss those documents with any legal firm of my choosing as well.

The issue here gets even worse when one realizes that this gag order has further unavoidable ramifications. Consider having to go to a hearing relevant to something when you’re even gagged about the very existence of that something. What will you tell your employer, let alone your wife, to explain why you took the day off and vanished? How many of your personal/vacation days will you have to burn just because the only excuse you can offer is “for personal reasons”? And you’d better hope to God that your wife trusts you.

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