This Patriots Day, I’m not going to look back at the terrible events of 9-11-2001. We all know the horror, the intense loss, and the overwhelming fear which billowed up and gripped our nation by the throat 11 years ago today. I want to spend a minute looking at the results of the fear because I’m afraid ever since that dark day, we’ve become accustomed to the dark in this country. Specifically, I’d like to draw your attention to the fact our Constitution and its Bill of Rights — cornerstone and keystone — of our nation have been largely discarded in the name of state security.
First, look at the PATRIOT Act. This single piece of legislation has destroyed the liberty and freedom of more Americans than any law this nation has ever passed. It is a law any dictator would be proud to have on his books. It is a law which has completely eviscerated our Constitution.
Broadly defined, the PATRIOT Act has:
expanded authority to regulate financial transactions . . . and broadened the discretion of law enforcement and immigration authorities . . . . The act also expanded the definition of terrorism . . . thus enlarging the number of activities to which the . . . . Act’s expanded law enforcement powers can be applied.
So terrorism is now whatever our government says it is and anyone our government denounces as a terrorist IS one. In the name of state security, our federal government — and by extension state and many local governments as well — can wiretap your phones, monitor your cell phone usage, track your internet browsing, and, with the provision that brought out the fight in librarians all over the country, walk in to your local library, flash a FBI badge and ask to see your library records. What makes this so insidious is this can all be done without your knowledge and in many cases without a warrant. Please read the following and compare what it says to the PATRIOT Act:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
If it sounds familiar, it’s because you remember the text of the Fourth Amendment from a civics class somewhere in your past. Many “unreasonable searches” and more than a few “seizures” have taken place in the last ten years, but where is the required “probable cause?” Probable Cause is no longer a legal definition; it’s whatever the FBI and other law enforcement agencies SAY it is.
Next, how many of you have heard of a guy named Anwar al-Awlaki? He was an odious little man who, as a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda, spewed venom and hatred against the US from his platform as a Muslim imam in Yemen. You don’t have to worry about him anymore though because he was killed about a year ago in a Predator drone strike carried out in Yemen on President Obama’s orders. This probably won’t make anyone lose sleep and I’m not saying it should except for one little detail about Awlaki. He was born in New Mexico in 1971.
According to US Law, anyone born on American soil, regardless of the nationality or citizenship of his or her parents is an AMERICAN CITIZEN. Anwar al-Awlaki was just as much a citizen of this country as George W. Bush is and Awlaki was assassinated on foreign soil by US armed forces. Our President ordered a citizen of this country summarily executed.
Time for another civics review.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
That’d be the Sixth Amendment. Our Founding Fathers wanted to see to it American citizens didn’t just “disappear” like so many French citizens did during their Revolution. One of our most precious rights is the right to a trial. It’s one of the things which makes us who we are as Americans. “THEY” stand people up against walls and shoot them. WE don’t do that! Or we didn’t. Now we do; and let me ask you a question — how long do you think it will be before American citizens on OUR own soil deemed to dangerous to live and to potentially hazardous to arrest and prosecute in the courts end up missing? When that happens, you may want to start looking up.
Of course, by the end of this year if you look up, and you live in an urban area, chances are good you’ll see a Predator or a Globe Hawk or maybe even a Reaper drone flying around above your city looking harmless. Right now, the military has 64 drone bases operational on American soil. Not all of them are for training. Maybe the government won’t use the ever-growing drone fleet to spy on us . . . maybe.
Finally, a word about The Global War on Terror. Ever since 9-11-01, many people believe we have been at war with terrorism. Here’s the problem with that. You cannot WIN a GLOBAL war on TERRORISM unless you control the WHOLE WORLD. What you can do though, is keep a lot of people scared of boogie men in Arab robes around every corner. The whole premise of TGWOT is ludicrous, unless you want to keep the country ACTING like we are at war. See, I listened to Granny Wham tell stories about how things were on the home front in WWII. You couldn’t do things you could do before Pearl Harbor. Police could do things they formerly couldn’t do because the country was AT WAR and when you are AT WAR, you have to draft WARTIME LEGISLATION. Unfortunately, we can’t win this war because “Terrorism” isn’t a country we can invade and wipe out. For every terrorist cell we find and take down, three more will pop up.
That’s okay with the government though because being AT WAR makes it okay to do almost anything, like put Japanese-American CITIZENS in concentration camps, or detain people at Gitmo for 11 years without a trial or spy on our own citizens. As long as the public is running scared and we are theoretically “At War” the government can do whatever it wants to do and cover it up or spin it and it’ll all be okay because it’s all done in the name of national security. Do yourself a favor and get a copy of Alan Moore’s graphic novel V for Vendetta. Read the book instead of watching the movie. The movie is an action thriller; the book will make you think. Just replace the book’s nuclear war with The Global War on Terror and see where it leads.
Let a great American from another era end this posting with his thought on “security.”
Take it away, Ben.
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and in the end will lose both.