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Civil Liberties & National Security

Posted by Rick · December 18th, 2005 · No Comments

If —without requiring a warrant — we allowed law enforcement officers to search people or their homes whenever they wanted, or intercept their mail, or listen in on their phone calls, crime rates would go down. There would be less murder. There would be fewer robberies. Burglaries would drop significantly. The so-called “war on drugs” might actually be won.

King George III of England well understood this. That’s why in the late 1770s, the American colonists were often subjected to such invasions of privacy. Mail was opened. Businesses and homes were searched. Suspected terrorists — the people who were disloyal to the British King — were taken to private prisons and interrogated. Many were subjected along the way to cruel and unusual punishments.

The majority of the American colonists escaped this. The British did not search every home. They did not seize every colonist and take them to private prisons. Particularly in the beginning, not every colonist opposed “the Crown.” Besides, King George III wasn’t invading privacy and trampling civil liberties just to reduce the number of murders, robberies, burglaries or smuggling. He was waging a war to protect British citizens from subversives! As the King might have put it, they were only targeting people with “a clear link to these terrorist networks.” (See Peter Baker, “Bush Defends Spying Order” Washington Post via The Fresno Bee (December 18, 2005) page 1. The story, as noted, is also available on the Washington Post, but you have to register and allow the Post to track your reading habits in order to read the story.)

In response to these activities, the American colonists eventually went to war against Great Britain. Hopefully, kids are still taught in school today about the Declaration of Independence signed in 1776 and the great, bloody and costly War of Independence that followed.

The “Americans” eventually won that war. Thus the birth of the United States of America declared and promised in the Declaration of Independence became a fact.

The Americans remembered what had happened to them under King George III. In drafting the new Constitution of the United States, there was great concern among many that the Constitution lacked a Bill of Rights. Even though the Constitution itself was meant to create “a limited form of government” — yes, the Founders of our nation intended a more libertarian form of government — there was a fear that the government might grow too powerful and eventually swallow up the rights of the people by, for and of whom it was created.

The final result was that the Bill of Rights contained a number of protections. Even though the government was already supposed to be limited to just having certain powers, the forward-thinking Founders eventually stated that, among other things:

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. — U.S. Constitution, amend iv.

The United States government, under this plan, is forbidden “to spy on Americans and other residents” without a warrant. This remains true even though our President “defiantly vowed to continue such domestic eavesdropping.” (“Bush to Defend Iraq Policy” (December 18, 2005) CBS News.)

Republican representative Dan Burton, perhaps recognizing that someone like me might try to point out the connection between the experiences of the early colonists and Americans today, states, “This is a war, not a tea party.” (“Bush to Defend Iraq Policy” (December 18, 2005) CBS News.)

No doubt Burton intends to invoke the memory of the Boston Tea Party and to indicate that what America faces today is much more serious. Hopefully, it only takes a moment of thought to recognize the arrogance and stupidity of such a comment. After all, the American colonists were facing the possibility that they might never live in a free and independent nation. Today we only face the possibility that some Americans might be killed by terrorists. While that may be a horrifying thing, it does not compare to what the colonists faced.

In the late 1700s, the American colonists were doing things which King George III rightly knew potentially signified the end of the British Empire, if they were allowed to continue. The colonists, for their part, were angry. They were literally up in arms. (The phrase “up in arms” after all, relates specifically to taking up firearms.) People were being killed. Eventually, this lead to “the shot heard round the world” and the War of Independence — the Revolutionary War — began.

This “tea party,” as Burton calls it, resulted in an estimated 6,188 wounded and 4,435 American deaths. To put this in perspective, consider that a total of approximately 217,000 American colonists fought in that war. During the most recent Persian Gulf War, the United States had 2,225,000 soldiers serving, with 467 people wounded and 147 killed. (War Casualties (updated November 26, 2005; last visited December 18, 2005) American Family Traditions.) Some tea party, eh? And, remember, these colonists were the people who later wrote the law requiring search warrants.

The United States has faced other threats greater than Al Queda in the past, as well. “That we have never lived in such dangerous times is — to use a four-letter word — crud,” notes Professor Stephen Graubard, author of Presidents: The Transformation of the American Presidency from Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush

In 1998, Articles of Impeachment were lodged against President Clinton because he lied about “the nature and details of his relationship with a subordinate Government employee.” In 2005, we have a President who lied to us about the reasons for taking the United States to war with another country. Additionally, that same President has been responsible for ignoring the Constitution for which Americans have repeatedly given their lives. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have died for the ideals and the rules outlined in the Constitution of the United States.

I propose that it’s high time that we remember that the slick salesman who believes he gets his orders directly from God is not really a King.

It’s time to impeach George Bush and remind the leaders of our government that it is our government. It is not a war machine for rich oil Presidents. It is certainly not one man’s private agency for spying on us.

Categories: The Bush Regime

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