Snowden Compares NSA Surveillance to Colonial General Warrants, “The last time that happened, we fought a war over it.”

December 23rd, 2013

From his interview in WaPo, Snowden made a direct reference to one of the causes of the American Revolution–pernicious general warrants that allowed British custom agents to search wherever they damn pleased:

In the Moscow interview, Snowden said, “What the government wants is something they never had before,” adding: “They want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?”

Snowden likened the NSA’s powers to those used by British authorities in Colonial America, when “general warrants” allowed anyone to be searched. The FISA court, Snowden said, “is authorizing general warrants for the entire country’s metadata.”

“The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,” he said.

The Declaration (curiously) does not contain any direct references to prohibition on the general warrants, also known as writs of assistance, but this grievance indirectly refers to them:

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

(Maybe the Fourth of July was the first Festivus, with the airing of grievances!?)

The Virginia Declaration of Rights, authored by George Mason shortly before July 4, 1776 directly discusses the general warrants:

SEC. 10. That general warrants, whereby an officer or messenger may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of a fact committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, or whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are grievous and oppressive and ought not to be granted.