Chronicling the Shredding of Our Rights Since 9/11

by J. H. Huebert

Not long ago, attorneys across the United States organized to protest Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s move to dissolve that country’s Supreme Court. In city after city, black-clad lawyers ostentatiously assembled in public to send a message halfway around the world about the importance of the rule of law.

For sure, there’s bad stuff happening in Pakistan. So good for my fellow attorneys for objecting, even though something tells me President Musharraf isn’t much moved by the views of a bunch of American lawyers, if he even got wind of their protests at all.

But where were all those American attorneys over the past six years, as the Bush administration and both Republicans and Democrats in Congress have shredded our own Constitution and Bill of Rights? Apparently doing the same thing as most everyone else: going along, sheep-like, as our leaders take us down the path toward the total state.

Fortunately, at least one lawyer – Judge Andrew P. Napolitano – has taken notice of all that’s been going on right here at home.

His new book, A Nation of Sheep, documents just some of the many assaults upon our basic liberties that government at all levels has launched since Sept. 11, 2001.

For example, he describes how FBI agents can now write their own search warrants, called National Security Letters, and demand that businesses hand over your personal information. The FBI needn’t go through a judge and needn’t tell you that it even went looking for your information. In fact, under the USA Patriot Act, the person who received a National Security Letter is prohibited from telling you or anyone else that the FBI either sought or obtained information from them.

So much for the Fourth and First Amendments.

Then there’s the Bush administration’s wiretapping of Americans without a warrant or probable cause. A federal judge struck down the program for its obvious unconstitutionality. But the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, upholding the program. Why? Because the plaintiffs could not prove they were victims of wiretaps. And why couldn’t they prove it? Because the records of who the NSA wiretaps are classified for "national security" reasons. (Judge Ronald Lee Gilman heroically dissented from this decision, to no avail.)

So much for the courts as the last-resort defenders of our liberties!

When the judicial branch teams up with the executive branch to tell us that the government can essentially do anything it wants in the name of national security, regardless of what the Constitution says, then it’s time for the kind of outrage that makes lawyers and everyone else take to the streets and demand their rights. Indeed, to the founders of our country, it meant doing a lot more than that.

Sadly, today, people in all walks of life are mostly content to just suffer the endless abuses of their freedom and privacy, distracting themselves with celebrity gossip and the latest consumer goods made possible in part by the easy credit the government also facilitates.

Is there hope for change? Judge Napolitano doesn’t see much, the masses of sheep being what they are.

But there is some cause for hope. Judge Napolitano points out that there is one (but only one!) presidential candidate who would respect the Constitution and undo all the damage that’s been done by George W. Bush and his predecessors: Congressman Ron Paul.

Then there’s the inflation and economic crisis that will likely result from all that easy credit. Maybe that will inspire the masses to reconsider their government’s benevolence – or, maybe it will make them flee into the arms of full-on fascism, as in Nazi Germany.

In the meantime, whatever they do, the most important thing you and I can do – assuming you aren’t content to be a sheep – is to educate ourselves about what our government’s up to, what it’s proper role should be, and how to protect ourselves. Reading Judge Napolitano’s book is a good step toward those ends.

Copyright © 2007 Orange County Register

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