The right to privacy is much in the news of late. Apparently this right, while not explicitly stated in the Constitution, underpins Roe v. Wade. It’s the main reason for the uproar about President Bush’s authorization of wiretaps without warrants. But what are we talking about, exactly? Let’s look at some examples. In which case or cases is privacy being violated, and in which is it not?
1. A husband and wife are prosecuted for sodomy for consensual acts perfomed in the privacy of their bedroom.
2. An unmarried man and woman are prosecuted for sodomy and adultery for consensual acts performed in the privacy of one of their bedrooms.
3. A married man and a woman not his wife are prosecuted for sodomy and adultery for consensual acts performed in the privacy of a motel room.
4. A man and another man are prosecuted for sodomy for consensual acts performed in the privacy of one of their bedrooms.
5. A married man and a female prostitute are prosecuted for sodomy, adultery, and prostitution for consensual acts performed for money, in the privacy of a motel room.
6. A husband is prosecuted for sodomy, battery, spousal abuse, and rape for acts he forced on his wife in the privacy of their bedroom.
I will grant that in most of those cases the prosecutor is going to have a heck of a time gathering evidence – but let’s assume that all of them were caught red…um, handed, in the various acts while the police were searching the house under a legal warrant for an unrelated offense. That (unlikely) circumstance would make it all admissable in court…and under laws still on the books in some states, ALL of those cases are illegal!
Let’s try another one.
1. A government agency records a phone conversation, without a warrant, including the following sentence: “I plan to get bombed at TGI Fridays in Pentagon City this weekend.”
2. A government agency records a phone conversation, without a warrant, including the following sentence: “I’m planting the bomb this Friday in the Pentagon. Stay away from the city this weekend.”
I don’t know about you, but in one of those cases, I’d really sort of like to find out the NSA was listening…but isn’t it still a violation of privacy? I’d really like to find a way to define privacy that would provide for reasonable violations for appropriate causes, but still protect me from unreasonable invasions. I just cannot for the life of me imagine a way to word a definition to control those limits.
For that matter, I have some question about the whole need for privacy, at least in terms of government intrusion. After all, if I’m not breaking any laws, what do I care if someone knows what I’m doing? Obviously, I don’t want it all released to the media, or posted on the Internet, or whatever…but as long as my personal information is used ONLY to prosecute legitimate crimes, I can’t see a real problem with having a camera in my bedroom, or attached to my arm, or whatever – 24 hour surveillance. After all, if everyone is being watched, that serves to PROTECT me from any number of crimes that might affect me – from terrorist bombs, muggers in dark alleys, even idiots who run red lights.
I really believe that most people’s fear of invasion of privacy stems from their suspicion or solid knowledge that some of the things they do are at least immoral, and probably illegal. In some cases, I believe that means the law should be changed, so that people can do what they want, as long as no one else is harmed without their consent – such as the laws against prostitution, drug use, and driving without a seat belt. In other cases, the world would be a better place if people could not get away with their crimes – such as rape, selling substandard prescription drugs, or driving with small children without child seats.
If our laws were written to protect us from others, instead of protecting us from ourselves, we wouldn’t need privacy. Since they’re not…I’d like to keep my privacy intact. I just wish I knew for sure what I’m asking for.