Two stories this week hit a nerve: The first involves a student about to be expelled from a Science and Engineering program because she refuses to wear a mandatory RFID tracking device around her neck. The identifying device is mandatory for all of the students attending this school.
The device carries a photo ID, name, tracking chip, bar code, and pinpoints the exact location of each student, even after school hours.
The second story is about a law that permits “authorities” to read anyone’s emails without authorization.
The first story is from San Antonio, Texas. Andrea Hernandez is a student at John Jay High School. The magnet school is not for habitual offenders. The school requires high academic scores and unparalleled attendance records in order to qualify. It also requires full participation in the identification and tracking program. Ms. Hernandez’s refusal, undertaken with the full support of her family, may result in her expulsion and then transfer to a school that does not “currently” participate in the tracking program. It doesn’t have a specialized Science and Engineering curriculum.
The second story originated in the United States Senate. The bill, originally designed to “protect the privacy of America’s citizens” was changed. Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, self-satisfied, self-appointed defender of the people, had surreptitiously revised the original bill so that, according to Declan McCullagh of C-NET, “Leahy's rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans' e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant.”
The original bill, according to Senator Leahy, was supposed to provide “enhanced privacy protections for American consumers by . . . requiring that the government obtain a search warrant.” Now it seems that revised bill eliminated that requirement. Senator Leahy was not interested in protecting Americans; he was attempting to circumvent the First Amendment. Scalded by exposure, Leahy dropped the bill on Tuesday (I will not “support such an exception” for warrantless access). As if he hadn’t been the one to make “warrantless access” a provision of the bill in the first place. The bill had been scheduled for a vote in the Senate next week.
The Senate grows more overweening by the day. That is why this story remains noteworthy. The only reason Senator Leahy withdrew his support of his own bill was that daylight had disinfected it. Without the outrage generated by a vigilant public it would have been buried by the media. Welcome to the most “transparent administration in America’s history.”
Students at John Jay High School, and their families, are objecting to mandated tracking on the grounds of religious freedom and freedom of speech infringement. Local outcry has forced a suggested compromise; removing the battery and tracking chip but keeping the photo ID, student’s name, and bar code (directly linked to the student’s social security number). The Hernandez family, however, would be “required” to end their criticism of the directive.
Ms. Hernandez’s father categorically refuses. He doesn’t understand why his right to disagree with the offensive program should be forbidden. Students at John Jay complain of being treated “like cattle.”
These two stories are just two examples of bureaucracy, Federal or local, growing increasingly eager to limit our freedom under this administration’s encouraging eye. Both stories are powerfully cautionary. How is it that IDs carried for voting purposes are an “infringement of rights” but American citizens are required to submit not only to wearing an ID but being tracked everywhere they go, 24/7? When did it become acceptable to consider monitoring an American’s communications, without a warrant? Has America reached the point where only the “rights” of illegals are protected?