Where Rights Trump Fear

Germany. But first —

The United States had a very, very bad day 2,360 days ago. So bad, that our leaders told us “everything has changed.” And everyone agreed. Even though we have not had a day nearly as bad in the past 2,360 days — our leaders want us so badly to know how much we should remain so very afraid.

How much? Your-Bill-of-Rights-is-a-quaint-piece-of-crap much; that’s how much. 2,360 days ago it was a bad bad bad bad day, it was.

But Germany — Germany has had its share of bad days, even since World War II. That’s why it’s amazing to consider this:

Government surveillance of personal computers violates the individual right to privacy, Germany’s highest court found Wednesday, in a ruling that German investigators say will restrict their ability to pursue terrorists.
In the ruling, Germany’s Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, established the privacy of data stored or exchanged on personal computers as a basic right protected by the nation’s constitution.

“Collecting such data directly encroaches on a citizen’s rights, given that fear of being observed … can prevent unselfconscious personal communication,” presiding judge Hans-Juergen Papier said in his ruling.

At the same time, Papier said authorities would be allowed to spy on suspects’ computers using virus-like software in exceptional cases. However, any such action must have the approval of a judge before going forward.

“Given the gravity of the intrusion, the secret infiltration of an IT system in such a way that use of the system and its data can be searched can only be constitutionally allowed if clear evidence of a concrete threat to a prominent object of legal protection exists,” Papier said.

What Germany had to learn the hard way, as we know very well, is that bad days do not constitute grounds for excuses. Too bad our fearmongers don’t know that.

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