History is a curious and fickle thing. There are many people who actually displayed little fiber or courage and actually accomplished little who are acclaimed in history books, while others who demonstrated great fiber and courage and did a great deal of good are often ignored. One of the latter who stood resolutely for the sanctity of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against illegal warrantless wiretapping was a man named James Lawrence Fly. Although barely recognized today, he was the chair of the Federal Communications Commission and the Defense Communications Board from 1940 through the end of World War II.
As highlighted in an article in the April 2016 edition of Reason Magazine, Larry Fly was requested by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to provide access to FCC equipment so the FBI could secretly wiretap the telephone communications of large numbers of American people within our country’s borders. But Fly, knowing that a warrantless wiretap was illegal, flatly turned him down. Hoover never forgot it, and turned this refusal into a lifelong crusade to punish Fly. But a free society needs people of principle like Larry Fly because, as we have recently seen by the disclosures by John Snowden, there are always pressures to expand the surveillance state and infringe upon the Liberty of its people. As stated by Paul Starr, lack of popular trust in the privacy of communications is the benchmark of closed or restrictive regimes. But it takes vigilance, dedication and often courage to fight for Liberty. So we are indebted to heroes like Larry Fly, and our history books should reflect – if not tout – just that fact. And all of us should be inspired and challenged both when we vote and also in our daily actions by this strong protector of Liberty.
Judge Jim Gray (Ret.)
2012 Libertarian candidate for Vice
President, along with Governor
Gary Johnson as the candidate for President
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