The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home. James Madison
William Pitt once said: “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.” Unfortunately necessity seems to have trumped freedom in the United States.
I have no fear of Al Qaeda or any other terrorist regardless of their malevolent intents, perverse ideology, and lethalness of their weapons or commitment to their cause. I don’t fear these malignant vermin because in our history we have faced down far greater threats to our country, our freedom and way of life. Unfortunately after the attacks of September 11th 2001 something changed in our country. For the first time an enemy had executed a successful attack on the continental United States killing nearly 3000 Americans and throwing the country into a state of shock and dare I say panic and generated such fear and anxiety that people willingly allowed their legislature to pass several acts to safeguard the country. These acts were of grand scale and affected almost every aspect of life in the country from driver’s licenses to airport security as well as government surveillance of e-mail and about every other form of communication outside of cans and string. Under previous courts parts or all of some of these acts would have been declared unconstitutional because previous courts recognized the inherent dangers of such types of legislation.
However fear has a strange affect on people especially a people who have become conditioned to desiring security and material comfort over freedom which entails risk. Despite warnings of civil libertarians on both the political left and right the Patriot Act of 2001 and the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004 were passed by large majorities in the then Republican dominated Congress and signed into law by President Bush. They were passed in the shadow of the single most devastating attack on the country in what were considered emergency conditions. They were passed because we were told and many of us earnestly believed that they were necessary for the protection of the American “homeland.” People willingly submitted to ever increasing security measures especially those in airports and few seem to know or even care that almost every type of telephonic, wireless or electronic means of communication to include e-mail and chat is monitored by Carnivore a massive surveillance system operated by the National Security Agency. The rational for accepting them is that they were needed to keep us safe form the terrorists. However, as Justice Charles Evans wrote: “Emergency does not create power. Emergency does not increase granted power or remove or diminish the restrictions imposed upon power granted or reserved. The Constitution was adopted in a period of grave emergency. Its grants of power to the federal government and its limitations of the power of the States were determined in the light of emergency, and they are not altered by emergency.”
As I said in my previous post The Road to Totalitarianism is paved with Good Intentions
that those that hastily enacted the legislation did so with good intentions, intentions to govern, but as Daniel Webster said: “Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”
In reaction to further threats and methods of attack by Al Qaeda and its allies the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its Transportation Security Agency (TSA) have put into use more stringent and intrusive methods at their airport passenger and crew screening stations. These include full body scanners that reveal a person’s naked body and if they do not desire that the can submit to a “pat down search” which can also be done to people chosen at random. The methods employed would be illegal if a teacher did them to a student and would get almost anyone else charged with sexual assault. They are draconian and have been applied to the most vulnerable citizens, children strip searched
, cancer survivors having their prosthetics removed and examined and one man having his urostomy bag broken leaving him soaked in urine.
There have been hundreds of complaints by other citizens who have felt that they have been assaulted in the process of being screened. To add insult to injury the TSA has announced that people who enter a security line and then decided that they do not want to be searched and want to leave the airport can be detained, interrogated and possibly charged with a felony, imprisoned and fined up to $11,000. They don’t even have to have anything on them; they can be law abiding citizens that simply decide at the moment that air travel is just not worth the humiliation.
The sad thing is that 80% in a CNN Poll said that they were okay with this but in reality these measures are already obsolete because Al Qaeda can change its tactics in an instant. Al Qaeda announced that the operation that led to this cost just over $4,000 and that its attacks were meant to “bleed us to death with a 1000 cuts.”
Not only this but there are reports that Al Qaeda is already developing methods for men or women to have explosives surgically implanted and thus completely undetectable unless all passengers are required to have a full body cavity search.
The TSA has dug in and is refusing to modify the searches despite pressure from their superiors at the DHS and some in Congress. The have been supported by the President but what really can he do. If he forces a change and something happens then he gets blamed by his political opponents who already have it out for him. Likewise he isn’t doing something that President Bush and John Ashcroft would not have done earlier had the technology been available in 2001. Add to the fact that 80% of the people say they are okay with these measures as long as they are safe means that he has to back the TSA. If he doesn’t he alienates even more of the people. He’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
In surrendering our liberty and all that we hold dear for an illusion of security we have in effect granted victory to Al Qaeda and its allies. Our Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen fight and die every day while their countrymen surrender the freedom that they honestly believe that they are fighting for. The freedoms and liberties that we give up will only grow in number and intensity. It will not end well.
God help us.