L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 205, January 6, 2003
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Freedom's Most Dangerous Enemy - Part 2
Special to TLE
See Part One at TLE 203 or at Mike's site
I am often criticized for being so outspoken in defense of personal freedom, especially in these times of terrorism and the government's effort to "secure the homeland". Tragically, far too many Americans have joined lock-step in George W. Bush's march towards a complete police state and too few Americans are willing to speak up and defend our Constitutional freedoms.
In my first article on this subject, I explained why President Bush's efforts to shred the Constitution are more dangerous than Osama Bin Laden will ever be. The mindless explanation we keep hearing (recently from Attorney General John Ashcroft on CNN's "Larry King Live") is that our freedom and Constitutional rights must be curtailed in order to protect...our freedom.
First, the President tried to enlist hundreds of thousands of postal workers, utility meter readers, cable installers, trash collectors, bank tellers and anyone else who has the opportunity to look into any aspect of your private life to become a de facto government agents under the T.I.P.S. program. Then, Bush commissioned the building of the "Total Information Awareness" project. This program, if successfully built, will allow the government to monitor, track and prepare a database on every single business, travel and financial transaction of everyone in America. John Poindexter has been appointed to lead the development of this program. Clearly, both the T.I.P.S. and T.I.A. programs violate the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, which preserves our right to be secure from any government intrusion into our lives until after the government can show, in court, that there is "probable cause" that we are involved in a crime that has been committed.
Now, the President is working on another way to decimate the Fourth Amendment. As part of the White House's "National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace", President Bush has begun an effort to require all internet service providers to build a centralized system that will allow government surveillance of everyone's email and internet activity (see [this link]). This program, if successfully put into place, will be built by the internet service providers but will be administered by the government. This, again, is being pursued in the name of "homeland security".
Defenders of this monstrosity will probably claim that since internet service providers will build the system and not the government, that it meets Constitutional merit. The idea behind this is that since both the service providers and their customers are in the private sector, then the government will not be violating our right to privacy. This claim, of course, is ridiculous. Forcing the internet industry to spy on Americans is the same thing as having the government administer the espionage directly. Both take away Americans' right to be "...secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures," (Amendment IV, US Constitution). Simply put, it is unconstitutional for the government to directly or indirectly search any aspect of our private lives without a court-ordered warrant.
Tragically, this marks George W. Bush's third blatant attempt to remove our Fourth Amendment rights.
Imagine living in a nation where the government can declare you an enemy at any time and for any reason. Now, imagine that government bestowing upon itself the right to either detain you with no access to an attorney or shoot and kill you outright without any formal charges, a trial or a conviction, even if you are a citizen. Frightening, isn't it?
You are not imagining anymore. That is precisely the authority our President has given the CIA (see: [this link]). Among President Bush's many casualties in the "homeland security" efforts is the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Sixth Amendment is the one that guarantees American citizens the right "...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 defense."
Please do not misunderstand me: I hate what terrorists have done to this nation and I want them all caught and brought to justice, even if justice is delivered with a bullet. However, I am not willing to stand by as my freedoms are declared null and void in the effort to track down the enemy. I also understand that placing our Constitutional freedoms above domestic combat goals will be an obstacle to the government. That is the way our Founding Fathers designed the Constitution; to protect liberty above the government's desires, regardless of any perceived nobility of those desires. Our freedom should never be the price of war.
War is brutal, obviously. The goal of war is simple: kill and destroy every aspect of your enemy until your enemy must either surrender or until there is nothing left of your enemy. That is the harsh reality of the battlefield. President Bush and John Ashcroft, however, have declared that U.S. soil is now part of that battlefield, that combat rules apply here and that those rules supercede Constitutional restraints on the government. Bush and Ashcroft have been fighting in court for the right to declare anyone an "enemy combatant", even United States citizens living in America, and nullify their rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Ashcroft recently defended this effort on "Larry King Live".
The Constitutional freedoms that American citizens are entitled to do not apply on foreign battlefields, nor do I want to see them applied there. Here in America, though, they must be respected for all U.S. citizens and for those immigrants who are here permanently and legally. Bush and Ashcroft want the power to declare your rights and freedoms null and void just by claiming you are an "enemy combatant", as in the case of a 31-year-old Chicago man (who is an American citizen). Jose Padilla is accused of being involved with Al Queda and was arrested initially - in America - as a material witness and later detained as an "enemy combatant".
Ashcroft fought in court against Padilla's Sixth Amendment right to be represented by an attorney, regardless of the fact that Padilla is an American citizen. Padilla may very well be involved with the terrorists, I don't know. The point is, neither does John Ashcroft and Padilla's rights must not be arbitrarily removed at the discretion of George W. Bush or John Ashcroft.
You may ask why I care about Jose Padilla, a suspected terrorist. I don't, but I care about the precedent that will be set for my freedom if the government is allowed to remove someone else's rights out of suspicion. The burden of proof is still on the government, and should be. Until Padilla is convicted of being involved with the enemy, he is entitled to the full legal rights that every other American citizen has. This is not about his freedom, this is about your freedom and my freedom.
President George W. Bush has made his beliefs very clear. He has no respect for the Constitution, he has no respect for Americans or for our freedoms. George W. Bush is freedom's most dangerous enemy. He is a man unfit to be President of the United States.
Since there is no hope of Congress performing its Constitutional duty and impeaching George W. Bush, we must remember Bush's outright assault on freedom when the 2004 election arrives. We must make certain that George W. Bush is not reelected President. You freedom depends on it.
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