Skip to comments.Will the War Kill the Bill of Rights?
Posted on 10/23/2001 8:48:28 AM PDT by sendtoscott
Will the War Kill the Bill of Rights?
by David Kopel, Fellow, Cato Institute
October 18, 2001
Late last week, Congress hurriedly passed massive "terrorism" bills that had never received committee hearings. Indeed, the House bill was only introduced on the morning that it passed - providing House members with no realistic opportunity to study the bill's tremendous implications. Both the House and the Senate bills grant vast powers to law enforcement that have nothing to do with counter-terrorism.
Because the House and Senate bills differ, a conference committee will be appointed, which will begin meeting very soon.
The House Judiciary Committee had unanimously passed an anti-terrorism bill, which awaited House floor action. But instead of bringing forward the bill that had received committee scrutiny, the House leadership (buckling to pressure from the administration) had a brand-new bill written and brought to the floor of the full House. The leadership moved so hastily that members were deprived of the opportunity even to read the bill before voting on it.
The House bill does include some sensible provisions to help the government fight terrorism, such as expediting the hiring of language translators for counter-terrorism work.
But there are also provisions that seriously infringe privacy, while offering little in the way of counter-terrorism. For example, the bill allows the government, without a warrant, to monitor every e-mail that a person sends and receives. Content access would, however, require a search warrant - although in practice the government would be on the honor system not to read content. Any state, local, or federal law enforcement officer could use the e-mail surveillance. And there is no requirement that this surveillance be connected to a terrorism investigation.
Currently, if the government wants to monitor a person's postal mail, the feds have to get a search warrant. Why should we lower privacy standards because the mail is sent electronically rather than by hand?
The House bill also allows surveillance of a person's Internet surfing. The government can capture the web address of every page that a person views-without a search warrant. This allows any law officer to find out intimate details about a person's politics, hobbies, and even sexual orientation. There is no requirement that this surveillance be related to counter-terrorism.
Significantly, the bill sunsets some (but not all) of the expanded government surveillance provisions after three years. This is a sensible recognition of the fact that the executive branch is asking for extraordinary wartime powers. If the war hasn't ended in three years, Congress is capable of enacting legislation to extend the powers.
The Senate bill-243 pages-is much worse than the House bill. The former's expansions of government power are permanent. Given that the bill will restrict the freedom of people born 50 years from now, it is inappropriate for the bill to be rushed through Congress only a few days after being written.
The Senate bill allows the government to conduct secret searches. This measure is not limited to terrorism cases. Rather, it would apply to federal government searches involving drugs, pornography, gambling, and everything else in the federal criminal code.
The federal government could covertly enter a person's house, copy the contents of his computer, and then break in the next month, and copy the hard disk again. To perform secret searches, the government would merely have to show that there "might" be an "adverse result" if the person found out about the search.
Of all the checks and balances in the Fourth Amendment, the most important is that the person who is searched knows that he has been searched. More so than any other person, he will have the incentive to complain (and, if necessary, to sue) if the search was in violation of the Constitution. Because judges don't come along when the police serve search warrants, judges have no practical way of knowing whether a search is conducted within the limits of the search warrant. In essence, secret searches put federal agents on the honor system.
While the solid majority of federal law enforcement agents are honorable, some are not. And the records of the FBI, the DEA, the ATF, and the rest of the federal law enforcement bureaucracy over the past decades demonstrate that when power can be used, some agents will abuse it.
Both the House and the Senate contain many laudable, and uncontroversial measures, such as providing assistance to the families of police and firefighters who died on Sept. 11. Congress would do better to quickly pass the measures that do not infringe civil liberty, and then take time to ensure that new restrictions on liberty are no broader than necessary, and that they apply only to terrorism investigations.
Any body getting the Drift out there?
Only if we allow it.
And definitely not necessary.
We just need to establish that it applies only to citizens who did not become so fraudulently (by swearing a false oath).
And any children of "false" citizens born here similarly are aliens.
The Bill of Rights should not protect foreign diplomatic personnel, tourists, students, people in transit or illegals.
Remember Wal-Mart's "Made in America" campaign that lasted about a month? We could buy some "stuff" there, that'd be Patriotic.
Or a Car!!! They're showing American Flags and spouting how they're just trying to get 'merica, or is it Amexica, moving again.
I believe China is set up to make Buicks now.(seriously) ;-)
This is the time bomb in the current legislation. Passed ostensibly for terrorism, eventually used for everything under the sun.
When you read "... and for other purposes ..." in legislation, beware. This overlooked little phrase explains how legislation passed supposedly for purpose A, eventually gets used for purpose B, C, D, E, ... X, Y, Z.
It is the sleight-of-hand magician's trick that has fooled lawmakers and the populace for decades.
While the solid majority of federal law enforcement agents are honorable, some are not.
... and their bosses are more corrupt. Those who make the policies agents follow are the real criminals.
OTOH, if you haven't noticed, America is at war against international terrorism. Certain actions by the federal gov't are necessary in order to obtain the intelligence required to fight the war on terrorism. I for one would rather stretch the limits today and thereby protect our rights, freedoms and liberty in the long term.
BTW, the last time I looked, an individual American's "politics, hobbies, and even sexual orientation", are generally not considered behavior that is consistent with law breaking activities. If you have nothing to hide, then you shouldn't be afraid. Those forces fighting terrorism are looking for sympathizers and supporters who are aligned with subversive groups that engage in espionage and/or sabotage within America's national borders and those defenses of our international interests.
This is no time to over react and allow fear to control our lives.
Just how are "we" going to stop it. My Kongressmen and senators pay absolutely no attention to anything I write, although I usually get a form letter back which says something to the effect that "I understand your concerns and will take them into account", but they go ahead and vote for more restrictions and ignore the Bill of Rights (kind of like the attitude of a number of people on this forum).
Will we be hearing this same phrase once someone decides to outlaw our firearms or, when someone decides that all of our guns must be registered? Surprisingly, no one raised a peep when the gov. decided to "register" our children (reportedly to stop "welfare" and income tax fraud) so the old thinking that people won't register their guns, no matter what, is pretty idiotic when one stops to think about it. I suppose, when that time comes, that people will still be saying "but if you've registered your guns, you don't have anything to worry about" - right up until the point that the BATF knocks on the door demanding that we hand them over.
Honestly, I don't want to be confrontational about this. I just want everyone to REALLY stop and think about the POTENTIAL for abuse of all these "powers".
Prior to the gun bans in the Peoples' Democracy of Kalifornia, what kind of firearm you owned was not considered "law breaking activities" by the PDK now it is.
The restrictions only go one way. Getting the tyranny in Washington to undo some restriction requires a miracle. You should never give the SOBs in DC anything, because 1. You'll never get it back, and 2. what they promise in return is worthless.
Well it didn't take long for someone to find an objection to this phrase. You win the prize. Whatever that may be.
It is important for all American's to remain vigilant during these uncertain days in the war against terrorism. It is also important for American's to remain vigilant when it comes to the abuse of power by the federal government.
President Bush supports the right of American's to purchase and own firearms. I'm living proof of that. As I said, this is no time to over react, but your points are well taken.
You'd think that the average, not yet totally dumbed down, person would have identified the new method of governance. It's called "In Your Face, We're The Government, You are NOT!" method.
Our form of government worked fine as long as there were BASIC ethics, morals, scruples, etc. instilled in the future leaders as youths. We're past that now. Excerpt for the few Throwbacks like Ron Paul, we're re-electing "Parties" with socially elite Actors as their fronts. They are for the most part born and bred to the jobs. Any encroachment on that system is viciously whipped down.
Let's remember, if your dead, your rights mean absolutely nothing. And let's leave ole Ben Franklin out of this one. Okay?!
Why? Do you think he was wrong? I happen to think that those who give up freedom to Washington for the promise of security really will have neither. Washington will take the freedom. I think that we are both in agreement on this. Unfortunately, it will not provide security. The federal government in all of its money grubbing and restrict this ban that glory failed completely to protect its citizens Was this failure because we don't live in a fascist police state like the former Deutsches Democratic Republic? Not likely. It's because what the government always does is strip its citizens of property and render them defenseless (the better to strip them of their property). The so-called increased security for passenger flights is nothing more than harrassment. Arming the pilots (which would work) is not being considered. Instead the military will kill everyone on a suspect aircraft. Your government in action. Render you defenseless and prey to terrorists, and then kill you if the terrorists victimize you
This is one of those times that we need to assure the security of American's, in order to achieve the overall goals of the Bush Doctrine in the war on international terrorism.
What no one has stated is exactly how taking a few more giant steps on the road to totalitarianism is going to make anyone safer. The Russians lived in a totalitarian state after WWI and Stalin kill 40,000,000 of them. The Jews in Europe during WWII lived under a totalitarian state, and Hitler killed 7,000,000. Pol Pot ran a totalitarian state in Cambodia and 2,000,000 died
Let's remember, if your dead, your rights mean absolutely nothing. And let's leave ole Ben Franklin out of this one. Okay?!
You're correct that we do not need to over-react in our current situation. I fear that the time to have over-reacted is long past, right about the time the government decided it had the power to regulate what kind of firearms we (as "the People") could own, right about the time that it decided it could tell us where to send our children during certain years at threat of arrest (k-12) and right about the time they decided it was okay to kill unborn children for convenience. Compared to those things, what we are facing now is inconsequental.
Let's remember, if your dead, your rights mean absolutely nothing.
This is irrelevant. If you are alive and in a death camp your rights don't mean anything either. If you are alive and a slave you don't have much in the way of rights either. There are those who would die for freedom, and still see the biggest threat to freedom as our own government, not some other terrorist organization
My Wife and I had our comment on the "Tech Bubble" when it started. We were trying to figure out what "Yahoo" was going to make to generate revenue. Best we could tell at that time was that it was a Search Engine.
We decided it was a "Seinfield" routine; like his "start a TV Show about Nothing" segment. Lots of that happened :-)
I'm from the Old School, we made "widgets" for the Auto Industry!
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