Letters to the Editor

Fast Focus: How far we've come

The Bill of Rights provides citizens with basic rights that list protection from the state and hopefully prevent the state from intruding in a person's right to privacy. Unfortunately these protections do not extend to your employer and your workplace. Employers can read your emails, files on your PC -- personal or otherwise -- eavesdrop on your phone calls and they have filmed folks on hidden cameras in public areas and in locker rooms and even restrooms. Your employer can also give information to third parties, such as creditors/collectors, insurance agents, landlords, etc. This monitoring and sharing is usually legal. Electronic surveillance in the workplace is legitimate. Employers have an interest in monitoring work for efficiency and productivity but it often becomes a tool for spying on employees. Computer data banks collect and store myriad information about private citizens available to the public, usually for a fee.

The Patriot Act took a major step attacking Americans' cherished rights and liberties in the name of security. Federal agents may conduct surveillance and searches, including roving wiretaps, against U.S. citizens without having to show probable cause. Agents can conduct sneak-and-peek searches without prior notice. Good-bye wrongful search and police having to knock and announce themselves. The government has access to any person's business and personal records, buying habits, medical and counseling or psychiatric records, internet surfing habits, credit records and DNA. The government doesn't have to give notice, obtain a warrant or subpoena, or show probable cause. They can ask for information from informants and those informants are prohibited from telling anyone. These powers taken by the executive branch overwhelm the balance of powers designed into the federal government structure and open the door to a crisis-motivated dictatorship.

The right to privacy may be provided for in the Bill of Rights, but you have no virtual privacy.

-- Dale Thornton, Benton City

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