Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Saturday, September 11, 2010 3:34 pm

Remembering what we lost on 9/11 — and what we threw away thereafter

Filed under: I want my country back. — Lex @ 3:34 pm
Tags: ,

On most anniversaries of the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and Flight 77, I have been much more about sorrow than anger.

Not today. Today I’m pissed.

A recent confluence of events is emerging into a mosaic that depicts the destruction of some of what’s most valuable about America. Our Fourth Amendment in particular, and many of our essential rights in general, are under attack by our own government at all levels by officials of both major parties.

This not only could have been avoided, it should have been. But as a country, we panicked; constitutionally speaking, we filled our pants. Worse, and even less defensibly, some who didn’t panic sought to exploit the fears of those who did and, disregarding Benjamin Franklin’s timeless warningThey who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety –we let them get away with it.

Consider:

  • After the government’s surveillance abuses of mid-century, Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Amended several times thereafter, the provision provided a constitutional avenue for us to keep an eye on friend and adversary alike while protecting the rights of U.S. persons at home and abroad. Just as important, it established both civil and criminal penalties for violations of the rights of U.S. citizens. But when The New York Times disclosed serial violations of the act by the Bush Administration, neither Congress nor the Justice Department took any action. Worse, Congress, including then-Sen. Barack Obama, granted retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that had cooperated with the government’s illegal surveillance of U.S. persons.
  • The Electronic Communications Privacy Act hasn’t been updated since 1986 and currently leaves our privacy vulnerable.
  • The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently approved police putting GPS tracking devices on suspects’ cars without a warrant.
  • Police are buying the same body scanners used in airports to use for searching people on the street … without a warrant or probable cause.
  • Here in North Carolina, the N.C. Sheriffs’ Association is seeking access to the state’s prescription-drug database — without a search warrant.
  • The widespread and growing use of National Security Lettersadministrative subpoenas (that is, subpoenas issued directly by an executive-branch government agency without judicial-branch review or oversight) that also typically include a gag order forbidding the subject from discussing the letter/case.

I could go on, but you get the picture: The three branches of the federal government are colluding with weak, unscrupulous and/or uninformed citizens to gut the Fourth Amendment by ignoring the plain meaning of the text:

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.

In short, if you want a search, get a warrant, and if you want a warrant, you provide probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, and you swear to that probable cause on penalty of perjury, and you explain exactly what it is you’re looking for — no fishing expeditions allowed. Memo to our courts: Where are the strict constructionists when we need them?

This is a basic and easy-to-understand rule. In fact, it has been under assault for most of the country’s history by law-enforcement officers who cheerfully perjured themselves, swearing to things “upon information and belief” when lacking the former and lacking any basis for the latter, and never suffered legal consequences. More recently, however, it has been under assault by politicians who knew what they wanted to do and also knew that what they wanted to do was unconstitutional by the plain meaning of the Fourth Amendment, so they set up NSLs and the like as a kind of legal window dressing or fig leaf. And illiterate and/or dishonest judges have let them do it.

This must stop, and I can think of no better tribute to the Americans of all races, faiths and political orientations who died in the terror attacks of 9/11 than to start rolling back the destruction of our rights, particularly our Fourth Amendment rights, that began in their name the minute they could no longer speak for themselves.

You don’t have to burn a copy of the USA Patriot Act, although frankly, I like the symbolism. Holding your elected officials accountable would be a start. And I don’t just mean voting out the ones who have done the wrong thing. I mean impeaching them for violating their oaths of office to uphold the Constitution.

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2 Comments

  1. […] Remembering what we lost on 9/11 — and what we threw away thereafter […]

    Pingback by Remembering what we lost on 9/11 — and what we threw away thereafter | Hammer of Truth 2010 — Sunday, September 12, 2010 3:28 am @ 3:28 am

  2. […] last big post on the anniversary of 9/11 was in 2010, and I really have little to add to that, other than deep gratitude that we might be getting an […]

    Pingback by Looking back through the dust cloud | Blog on the Run: Reloaded — Wednesday, September 11, 2013 9:19 am @ 9:19 am


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