I wrote the below column last week for the Georgetown Advocate, Hill Country News, and Jarrell Star Ledger, but this story just keeps growing, and none of the news is encouraging.
“They'll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices.”
-Barack Obama, May 5, 2013
-Barack Obama, May 5, 2013
There is no shortage of news stories on government overreach these days. Allegedly the IRS has harassed conservative applicants for tax exempt status and targeted a significant number of Republican donors for audits. Attorney General Eric Holder is facing questions about secret warrants targeting Fox News reporters and possible perjury in Congressional testimony. The EPA is under fire for giving preferential treatment to liberal groups while hampering conservatives seeking open records. Even the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has harassed and intimidated Republican-owned Gibson Guitars.
One of the most disturbing stories to date takes place right here in the Texas, where multiple government entities have harassed True the Vote founder Catherine Engelbrecht. Not only did the IRS demand excessive and unreasonable information for Englebrecht’s organization, but her business was audited, and both she and her husband faced personal IRS audits. Furthermore, the Engelbrecht’s were subject to repeated investigations by the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms, OSHA, and the EPA. It is hard to believe any of this is a coincidence.
Clearly the administration has many tools at its disposal for the harassment and intimidation of political enemies. Now, however, technological advances are enabling our government to collect unprecedented amounts of personal data, a factor that will vastly increase federal power.
For example, in the name of ‘free health care,” bureaucrats will soon have access to our medical records, and it seems that those medical records will include more detailed information than ever before. Some health questionnaires now ask about gun ownership and other personal habits, and there is really no limit to what information could be included in the national Electronic Medical Record database mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Such information will be in the hands of…IRS agents.
Public Schools are also collecting extensive data on our children. President Obama’s Common Core initiative not only imposes questionable curriculum standards, but implements a national electronic database of students. While Texas has at least nominally rejected Common Core, the state is in the process of creating its own Texas Student Data System (TSDS). Under this system, every student at a Texas public or charter school will have a “Unique ID.” Although the systems are purportedly to track academic progress, it isn’t a stretch to see that much more information can be included in these student databases. Schools often offer health screenings, and some academic ‘assessment tools’ involve asking students to write very personal essays about family life and experiences. Will those details be added to these electronic records? Who will have access and what will be done with the collected data 10, 20, or 30 years later?
Now also the Supreme Court has approved the taking of DNA without a warrant. Unlike fingerprints, DNA samples contain the entire blueprint for individual human beings. Since some scientists believe they can predict behavior and outcomes based on DNA analysis, how might such information be used in the future?
While the naïve will dismiss such concerns as so much paranoia, a review of last week’s top news stories shows that abuse of government power is happening right now and we are often unaware. Government entities are not only monitoring our phone activity, but every move we make on the Internet. Obviously there are more than a few individuals in government who are willing to abuse this power. I fear that in the quest to create a utopia, we have delivered ourselves into the hands of a very powerful bully.
Our founding fathers sought to craft a government that could never tyrannize the people. If we are to stop these government abuses, we must first enforce constitutional protections, and bureaucrats who abuse power should be punished within the full extent of the law. Secondly, we must find ways to check government power in the electronic age. Without new protections for privacy and liberty, any government, current or future, could easily impose tyranny. And contrary to the President’s assurances, the threat of tyranny is a clear and present danger.