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Book Review: The Rights of the People: How Our Search for Safety Invades Our Liberty by David K. Shipler

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The true meaning and original intent of the Constitution of the United States of America is a hotly debated topic. Activists at each end of the spectrum, liberal and conservative, try to see the Constitution through their political perspectives.

For the past two centuries, courts and legislatures have worked to define the liberty offered to us in the Constitution — at times expanding and at times contracting. There have been many changes over time, including the addition of The Bill of Rights, the 1917 Espionage Act, and 1918 Sedition Act, and changes during the McCarthy era and beyond that gave government more and increasing power over the personal lives of American citizens. Most recently we’ve see further loss of rights with the 2001 Patriot Act.

All of these changes have been made with the goal of keeping America safe according to our government. How many of our personal rights do we need to give up to be safe? The Rights of the People offers an in-depth look at that question.

It walks you through a history of our rights in America from the creation of the Constitution through to modern times. You’ll learn not only about history but also about the impact of religion, suppression of secrets, criminal acts, and lawyers versus the Rule of Law.

A chapter entitled “Another Country” examines the Fourth Amendment and how it has been abused in this country, specifically taking a look at how it applies to minorities and profiling. “Defending the System” examines our legal system, perjury, reasonable doubt, and short cuts that are being taken so subtly that Americans are not noticing. The book discusses warrants and search and seizure are occurring more and more often without the presence of necessary suspicion.

More recently, a number of disturbing trends are continuing to expand while eroding our personal freedoms. Issues like the dissemination of data and how it’s being monitored are examined and how it impacts our rights to privacy. Consider issues like phone taps, bugs, government monitoring of private email addresses, and National Security Letters.

There are far-reaching implications to the government accessing private information. Consider that Google keeps information about you and what you do online. The government has the right to review any of that information when it wants to — any time, any thing, any person. Do we need to relinquish our privacy so easily? Uncontrolled government snooping opens the doors to an invasion of our privacy that, unchecked, can lead to oppression.

The author asks that you not believe the statement that “If you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” What happens when the government decides that the websites you’re viewing or the books you’re reading are wrong? What happens when your every moment is monitored by secret and not so secret cameras? When your heart rate is monitored by scanners to monitor stress levels that may lead fugitives or criminals? How much of your freedom will you give up to be *safe* and just who will you be safe from then?

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About Ellen Christian

Ellen is a busy mom of two teenagers who left the corporate world in 2008 to focus on a more eco-friendly life. She lives in rural Vermont where she juggles family, two blogs and a career in social media. You can find her at http://www.confessionsofanover-workedmom.com/ and http://the-socialites-closet.blogspot.com/.