If you think you’re hearing more accounts than ever about improper government intrusion into our lives, you’re a lot like author and journalist David Kirby. He researched that for new book “When They Come For You: How Police and Government Are Trampling Our Liberties - and How to Take Them Back.”
Sharyl: When you say, "When They Come for You," who is the "They"?
Kirby: The "they" can be anything from a local social service's agent in your community, to the president of the United States. This goes on at the state, federal and local level. It goes on in red states and blue states, rich states, and poor states, big cities, and small towns. I found violations of the Fourth Amendment, the First Amendment, freedom of speech, people having their homes raided without a warrant. People having their cars taken away from them because they were suspected of a crime even though they didn't commit a crime. People in debtor's prison because they can't pay their court fees and fines, and of course child protective services that come in the middle of the night, and just yank your kid away.
Sharyl: Do you think there's been an escalation in events like this, or are we just able to find them, and notice them more?
Kirby: It’s a very good question. There's not a lot of hard data unfortunately. There is more monitoring. Social media, people have cameras with them everywhere so it's more noticeable. But I do think it is getting worse. I think particularly with surveillance, with the First Amendment, with freedom of the press, freedom of protesters. I think it started after 911, the PATRIOT Act. It got worse under Obama, as you well know, with surveillance of the media. Now I think it's getting even worse, particularly cracking down on protesters, spying on protesters, and doing things like threatening to sue media outlets for libel, or wanting to change the libel laws.
Sharyl: Many Americans say, "I obey the law. If the government wants to surveil me, look at my computer, I don't really care." Is there a counterpoint to that?
Kirby: I mean that's the Fourth Amendment. It's the most threatened amendment in our country, I think, after the First Amendment, which is a close second. But we need to protect those protections for everybody, and once you just acquiesce and say, "Well, it's okay if they're listening in on my phone call," then the door starts opening wider and wider.
Sharyl: Is it fair to say you consider yourself a liberal, or a liberal Democrat?
Kirby: I’m a lefty. Yes. Left of center.
Sharyl: Do you notice any division? Is one party or the other better or worse at any of this?
Kirby: They’re both bad to be honest. I can pick apart, and my book does, and I'm equally critical of the Obama Administration as the Trump Administration. A lot of my stories take place in blue states.
Sharyl: But what do you attribute that to, if there isn't even an ideological divide into where this happens?
Kirby: Well, I think when you talk about ideology, I think people on the far left and on the far right are actually a lot more united over these issues than they realize. People on the left don't like government intrusion any more than anybody else does. It is more of a libertarian point of view. I call myself a lefty libertarian, which sounds oxymoronic, but I figured it out. I would say people like Rand Paul is certainly bringing these things up once in a while. He has sponsored some bills in Congress. They go absolutely nowhere. He does get Democratic cosponsors. There are people, progressives, who are interested in reforming these issues, and reigning in the government. But like I said, it goes nowhere.
Sharyl: What would you say is the takeaway message you would like people to walk away from reading your book with?
Kirby: Know your Bill of Rights. Read them, study them, know what protections you are offered under them in case you ever need to use them, and if you are concerned about these things, it's up to us. These are our personal freedoms, and they are under attack.
A new report from Pew Research Center says a majority of Americans, 64%, are concerned about how much data is collected about them by the government online.