The government's sweeping surveillance programs might be protecting America, but they are also fundamentally un-American, writes Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal today. "The end of the expectation that citizens' communications are and will remain private will probably change us as a people, and a country," she writes. If people think the government is listening to whatever they say, worrying that it might be misunderstood, it crimps "freedom of expression," she writes. "The inevitable end of surveillance is self-censorship."
Noonan devotes much of the column to the thoughts of 88-year-old civil libertarian Nat Hentoff, who argues that both the first and fourth amendments are in jeopardy. If people are worried about the unreasonable search and seizure of, say, their private communications, that will have a serious effect on their free speech, too. Congress and the media are finally beginning to realize "that there are particular constitutional liberty rights that [Americans] have that distinguish them from all other people, and one of them is privacy," he says. Click for Noonan's full column.