First came the Patriot Act. Simply put, the Patriot Act is one of the most egregious acts against rights and liberties that we have witnessed in our lifetimes. The President and many members of Congress will argue that their primary job is to keep America safe. But that’s not the starting point. Their primary job is to see that the Constitution is enforced, and that means keeping us free.
As Judge Andrew Napolitano said on his Fox News program recently, the job of these federal officials is to keep us “Free from tyrants who sought and claimed power from thin air; free from prince-like federal agents who could behave without constitutional or legal restraint; free to live with a government that obeys its own laws. Any president who keeps us safe but unfree is ignoring his oath to the American people.” And doesn’t keeping us safe include keeping us safe from the tyranny of our own government?
The abuses under the so called Patriot Act began almost immediately. Two U.S. Senators have sent out early warnings. Senator Mark Udall from Colorado, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned: “Americans would be alarmed if they knew how this law is being carried out.” His concerns were echoed by Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, also a member of the Intelligence Committee, who charged: “When the American people find out how their government has secretly interpreted the Patriot Act, they will be stunned and they will be angry.”
Then, during an unwatched hour on New Year’s Eve, when most Americans were focused on revelry and football, President Obama signed the latest assault on our freedoms. The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 gives the President the authority to have American citizens arrested and detained indefinitely, without due process. We fought the British for our freedom, and as Judge Napolitano points out, even King George did not have the power to indefinitely detain any citizen. I gotta say it again. American citizens can be arrested on American soil and imprisoned indefinitely on the basis of accusations alone.
There is little good news, but every now and then, there’s a glimmer. Just this week, the U.S. Supreme Court, often notoriously blind to the cause of individual rights, unanimously decreed that a search warrant is necessary before law enforcement officers can use a GPS device to track and follow a criminal suspect. The Court used a little common sense for a change in ruling that despite advances in surveillance technology, the Fourth Amendment still applies.
But what if the police can track an individual without installing equipment? Many new cars have GPS devices factory installed. Do the same privacy rules apply?
How about the fact that current technology allows the government to track the locations of millions of cell phones at will? The court “punted” on any clarification here, and said they would consider these issues at a later time. Is your cell phone activity and location being tracked right now?
The basic freedoms and protections of American citizens under the Bill of Rights have never before been under such assault. The stripping of these freedoms began following 9/11 under the Bush Administration. Under the Obama Administration, civil liberties have been further cut to the bone. Lenin summed up the direction our nation is heading, well, when he said, “It is true that liberty is precious, so precious that it must be carefully rationed.”
There was a small step towards the protection of privacy in the Supreme Court decision this week. But if the call for security smothers the rights of privacy, and the right to be free, then the terrorists do win. How can America issue a call for freedom in other countries, while deserting it here at home? Our freedom train is off the track. We have some adjusting to do. Before the essential principles on which our country was founded disappear right before our eyes. Edmund Burke said it this way, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
“Those who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security.” Benjamin Franklin
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the country. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.