Fourth Amendment

Stop Spying on Wikipedia Users - Comment on NY Times editorial

By Herb Lin
Tuesday, March 10, 2015, 6:00 PM

The New York Times today has an op-ed by the founder of Wikipedia called Stop Spying on Wikipedia Users. The op-ed asserts that “N.S.A.’s mass surveillance of Internet traffic on American soil — often called “upstream” surveillance — violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects the right to privacy, as well as the First Amendment, which protects the freedoms of expression and association.” It further argues that “whenever someone overseas views or edits a Wikipedia page, it’s likely that the N.S.A. is tracking that activity — including the content of what was read or typed, as well as other information that can be linked to the person’s physical location and possible identity.”

This piece, as with others of a similar inclination, leaves me with a conundrum in logic that I don’t know how to resolve, independently of the merits of whether NSA’s activities are or are not appropriate.

I understand the U.S. Constitution to be a document that protects the rights of Americans against certain acts of government (see Amendments 1-10, aka the Bill of Rights). The op-ed in question seems to be appealing for Constitutional protections for individuals who are overseas. To the extent that such individuals are foreign citizens, the op-ed is thus advocating that foreign citizens be granted rights comparable to those enjoyed by Americans.

Fair enough, though that’s not the intent of the Constitution. But I can’t square that position with another position that I also hold – that American citizens should be entitled to *more* protections than foreign citizens where the U.S. government is concerned.

That is, for American citizens to have more protections than foreign citizens, it is necessary that foreign citizens have fewer protections that American citizens. That seems to me to be a very fundamental point of logic.

If I’m missing something, someone please tell me.