Could the Third Amendment Thwart the Surveillance State?

As the weapons of the surveillance states grow more and more sophisticated and the courts and Congress conspire to deprive the people of their right to be free from unwarranted searches and seizures, there is a suggestion that the unheralded Third Amendment may be deployed as a shield against the attacks.


For example, in a September 29 op-ed written for the Los Angeles Times, California state lawmaker Mike Gatto has proposed that the Third Amendment be construed in a novel way to thwart the progress of the federal government’s goal of placing every American under surveillance. Gatto, calling his theory a “redcoat solution to government surveillance,” writes, “Perhaps another route is available, using an amendment so rarely cited that the American Bar Assn. called it the ‘runt piglet’ of our Constitution. It’s the 3rd Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from lodging military personnel in your home.”


Then, Gatto presents his case for applying the right of Americans to be free from forcibly housing members of the armed forces:


The National Security Agency is part of the Department of Defense and therefore of our nation’s military. By law, the NSA director must be a commissioned military officer, and per its mission statement, the NSA gathers information for military purposes. That’s strong evidence that NSA personnel would qualify as soldiers under the 3rd Amendment.


And why did the framers prohibit the government lodging soldiers in private homes? Besides a general distaste for standing armies, quartering was costly for homeowners; it was also an annoyance that completely extinguished a family’s sense of privacy and made them feel violated. Sound familiar?


It does sound familiar.


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