The third amendment – forbidding quartering of soldiers in your home – is currently a joke. It’s been litigated exactly one time, and it’s ignored when we the list basic rights we Americans hold dear. This is a problem. I believe that the third amendment must be a cornerstone of civil liberties for the third millennium. Consider all these things which are already happening or will soon be possible:
1) The NSA installs software on a private citizen’s machine that monitors all of their activity on that computer and transmits over an encrypted channel to the NSA.
2) The FBI sends a tiny robot into a crime suspect’s house, without a warrant, to observe the suspect’s activities. The robot transmits this information over an encrypted channel to the FBI.
3) The CIA drops a cloud of nanorobots over a convention hall, and the robots are ingested by protest figures who unknowingly breathe them in. The nanorobots circulate in the bloodstreams of figures in the protest movement, and transmit levels of adrenaline and other hormones in the protest leader’s bodies – and activate their adrenaline glands, to keep the protest leaders in a state of permanent stress arousal.
4) The DEA installs a robotic soldier with an M16 in each american’s house, to make sure they aren’t using drugs.
All of the above scenarios involve “Armed Agents of the US Government” stationed on private property without permission. Case 4 is obvious – a robotic soldier is clearly a soldier even if it’s not human. What about case 3? The ability to trigger a fight or flight reflex activity is clearly an offensive weapon; a person’s body is certainly more protected and personal than their house. A reasonable person would agree, yes, that is a weapon.
What about situations 2 and 1? Well, keep in mind that the US Government considers cryptographic software to be weaponry. Any piece of software containing cryptographic libraries that is installed by someone else, on your computer, is literally and legally, an armed agent acting on that person’s behalf.
The third amendment contains a strong protection of privacy – a solid line the government is not allowed to cross. We ignore it at our peril. As technology advances, and the boundary between the first and the second amendment starts to blur, we need to use the third amendment to defend our hard-won liberties.
What can you do? Just share this post – especially with lawyers and other defenders of liberty you know. Get people talking about this, and we can win a few court cases clarifying that yes, a software library running with export-restricted, weapons grade cryptography is an armed agent, and cannot be installed on your machine – or in your body – without your permission.