Here they go again. The Obama administration has asked its allies in Congress to introduce legislation that would permit the feds to continue their march through the Fourth Amendment when it comes to obtaining private information about all of us.
The Fourth Amendment, which guarantees the right to be left alone, was written largely in response to legislation Parliament enacted in the colonial era that permitted British soldiers to write their own search warrants and then use those warrants as a legal basis to enter private homes. The ostensible purpose of doing that was to search through the colonists' papers looking for stamps, which the Stamp Act required the colonists to affix to all documents in their possession. The laws that permitted the soldier-written search warrants and the Stamp Act were the British government's fatal political mistakes, which arguably caused a major shift in colonial opinion toward secession from Britain 10 years before the bloody part of the Revolution began.
After the Founders won the Revolution, the framers wrote the Constitution in large measure to assure that the new government in America would not and could not do to Americans what the king had done to the colonists. Hence the Fourth Amendment's requirement that only judges issue search warrants and only after the governmental agency seeking the warrants presents evidence under oath of probable cause of crime. Regrettably, that was weakened after 9/11 with the enactment of the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act – written in defiance of the Constitution and in ignorance of our history – permits federal agents to write their own search warrants, just as the king and Parliament had permitted British soldiers to do. Those agent-written search warrants are intended to be limited to the search for evidence of terror plots and are theoretically limited to the seizure of physical records in the custody of third parties, like lawyers, doctors, hospitals, billing clerks, telephone and Internet carriers, and even the Post Office. (Did you know that federal agents can see your mail and your legal and medical records without permission from a judge?) This abominable piece of legislation sacrificed freedom for safety and enhanced neither.