Justice Antonin Scalia is warning that the heated debate over the National Security Agency’s snooping on Americans in its 24/7 campaign to ferret out terrorists via phone, email and internet use could be hampered or worse by an activist Supreme Court inventing new privacy rights.
“That question will be answered in the last analysis not by Congress, but by my court,” he told George Washington University students Monday at an event to celebrate the 226th signing of the Constitution. He said the court could use the case “to determine what privacy rights ought to exist.”
Scalia, the longest-serving justice on the court, said that not only does the Constitution not give Americans any right to protect their conversations, the Supreme Court is dumb on what the NSA is up to and why the agency feels the need to sift through digital communications to track terrorists and potential terrorist attacks.
“That branch of government which knows the least about the nature of the foreign threat, which knows the least about what kind of operations are being conducted and what kind of information that generates, will have the last word,” Scalia warned.
“I guess you could run a system that way, but it doesn’t seem to be the system explicitly set forth in the Constitution,” added Scalia, who regularly slaps at activist judges and decisions that stretch the words in the Constitution.
Scalia cited the 4th Amendment which guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,” as the nation’s basic privacy act. But he noted that it doesn’t protect “their conversations.”
He described the court’s evolving thoughts on privacy, but was at a loss to explain. “Yes, there is a generalized right of privacy, which means --- I don’t know what it means,” said Scalia.Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.