Mendax News Service has learned that the Department of Homeland Security has set up a department within itself to be known as The Bureau of Privacy. The new subsidiary department will be in charge of monitoring the actions and associations of the populace to root out terrorism before it happens.
The impetus for the new Bureau is believed to be the plot – thwarted, thankfully – by a German terrorist, Friedrich Wöhler to dump calcium carbide in the toilets of public restrooms and provide some kind of delayed ignition source.
Mendax contacted the spokesman for the new bureau, P. Tom Coventry about plans to install cameras and listening devices in all public restrooms.
Mendax: Mr. Coventry, It seems that putting cameras in the stalls of public restrooms is a violation of privacy by any standard. How do you justify this?
Coventry: We don't see the right to privacy as absolute. After the underwear bomber tried to blow up a plane with a bomb concealed in his underwear, pornoscanners were installed in many airports with very little complaint from the flying public. This is a reasonable extension of our mission to protect the public while respecting people's privacy.
Mendax: This doesn't seem like you are respecting people's privacy, it seems like you are violating it.
Coventry: We would never violate anyone's privacy. This isn't a violation, it is a monitored privacy, which enhances both privacy and security. After all, privacy is no use without security. In order to mean anything, privacy must be regulated. We don't have a right to unbridled privacy.
Mendax: Can you cite any precedents for your opinion?
Coventry: Certainly, the scanners at the airports I already mentioned and random road blocks, searches of buses, luggage, domestic drones that are being contemplated and so on.
Mendax: These things take place in public places, not restrooms.
Coventry: We are not going to monitor bathrooms in detatched single-family, privately owned residences, only public buildings and buildings that the public has access to, such as hotels, office buildings, stadiums, schools, public housing or housing that receives funding from the public such as Section Eight housing. We're not talking about Big Brother here.
Mendax: What if people object to this new form of surveillance?
Coventry: There will always be a fringe element that sees a privacy violation behind every government initiative, but our mission is to ensure the safety of the public. We can't do that without real time observation of any potential threat. If we want to preserve our freedom, we've got to have enhanced privacy.
Mendax: What you are talking about doing doesn't sound like it will enhance privacy.
Coventry: Of course it will. What good is privacy if you're dead? The Bureau of Privacy is going to do its utmost to protect the public's privacy while still providing security.
Mendax: Where is any of this new surveillance authorized? Doesn't it at the very least violate the Fourth Amendment?
Coventry: No, it doesn't. The Fourth Amendment forbids unreasonable searches and seizures, etc. We are not searching or seizing anything, but merely observing.
Mendax: It seems to violate the intent, if not the letter of the amendment, and even common sense.
Coventry: We can't let common sense prejudice our interpretation of the law. There are various penumbras and emanations that allow for surveillance. Besides that, the Constitution is a living document, so we can never tell what it really meant or what it will mean in the future.
Mendax: Thank you for your time Mr. Coventry. I'm sure there will be some lawsuits over this.
Coventry: Since nobody is required to use any of these facilities, we don't anticipate any legal roadblocks to our plans. Everyone uses these facilities voluntarily.