The Bright Future of the Fourth

Thirteen months ago, I would never have dreamed that we’d be where we are today.

Back then, I was working professionally on surveillance reform; but there really were not many of us. The Fourth Amendment was hardly headline news. We had support from maybe 20% of Congress, but almost none from a deferential judiciary, a hostile executive branch, and an indifferent tech industry. Litigation against warrantless surveillance looked like it was at best on life support.

What Snowden did thirteen months ago shook, and is still shaking the world. The truths coming out about the NSA’s activities have reconfigured diplomatic relations, affected the profits of the world’s largest companies, and reshaped the Internet itself.

It has also had an effect on the Fourth Amendment. We have seen worldwide protests against mass surveillance. We have seen serious and continuing efforts to address surveillance reform in Congress – and also some less serious ones. The Supreme Court has swung strongly toward digital privacy, ruling unanimously in the Riley case this month that police have to get a warrant to search your cellphone. So has the House, which recently passed a prohibition on NSA backdoors by a thumping majority. Relative to thirteen months ago, the future for the Fourth Amendment looks bright.

Even with the deep corruption embedded in our politics, restoring the Fourth Amendment, piece by piece, remains a feasible goal. The surveillance state, while very powerful, can be beaten. And I am proud to say that Restore The Fourth has been a strong force in that battle.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Alex Marthews, National Chair