well,. ok Zack, but you better read it unlike that Locke thing, cause I spent a lot of time on this essay, if any of you would like to read some of my research, just ask to see my bibliography (it's 3 pages long) and this paper is 6 pages long when printed---loooong---enjoy!!
The War On Civil Liberties
After the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, the United States Congress and judicial system have allowed the restriction of civil liberties in the name of combating terrorism. In reality, these restrictions are often unconstitutional. However, the current administration has demonstrated a willingness to allow these abridgements in return for a supposed increase in the safety of the country against the threat of terrorism. One specific piece of legislation, designed for this purpose, passed about a month after the September 11th attacks, is Public Law 107-56, commonly referred to as the US Patriot Act. It provides that many rights, especially those of due legal process, can be stripped from any “alien” thought to pose a terrorist threat to public safety. The restrictions of civil liberties in the United States of America in response to President Bush’s war on terror are ineffective, unconstitutional, and lack the necessary checks and balances to prevent abuse.
In many other countries in the world, restrictions of civil liberties have been commonplace for years as attempts to deal with rabid terrorism. However, none of these places has experienced a significant decrease in the threat of terrorism. In Germany, everyone is required to register with the local police before they can get a phone line or bank account. However, this did not alert the German authorities to the fact that three of the nineteen terrorists from the September 11 terrorist attacks lived there as students prior to the attacks. If the terrorist attack of September 11 had been directed against Germany instead of against the US, the attacks would probably still have been successful because the German authorities were unaware of the terrorists living among them. According to a statistic by the US State Department, “Armed groups committed significant acts of terror in 29 countries last year . In many of these countries, security precautions are part of daily life after decades-long deadly conflicts” (LA Times, Sept 21, 2001). Even though a large number of the 29 countries which experienced terrorist attacks last year had precautions in effect, they still had terrorism carried out against them. Israel has been plagued with terrorism since the moment the country was formed in 1948 through the present day. Israel has one of the highest rates of acts of terrorism in the world. Additionally, Israel commits some of the worst civil liberties violations in the world against its citizens, especially against the Arabs living in Israel. However, many of these same Arabs turn around, strap bombs to their torsos, and blow up whole streets. Even though civil rights are heavily restricted in Israel, it is not unusual to hear of suicide bombings as frequently as once a month. Obviously, these restrictions have little impact on the terrorism in Israel. In fact, many times, the restrictions make terrorism more virulent because of the added animosity caused by the restrictions.
The current restrictions on civil liberties in the United States of America are unconstitutional. The restrictions are contradictory to clauses present in the Fourth Amendment, Sixth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution stipulates that, “People [have a right to be] secure in their persons, houses, papers and effect, against unreasonable search and seizure…” (www.house.gov). The US Patriot Act allows for secret wiretaps and secret requisitions of records, including credit and library records. When the government requests this information from someone, they are not allowed to tell anyone that the information has been gathered, not even the accused. A search of information that the accused is not even aware has occurred is most certainly an “unreasonable search”.
The Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, states that, “ In all criminal prosecution, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial” (www.house.gov). However, provisions in the Patriot Act, and the forthcoming “Patriot II” allow for secret arrests, detentions, and deportations. “Secret Arrests, [are] a practice common in totalitarian regimes but never before authorized in the United States” (The Nation, March 17, 2003). The US has always prided itself on being anti-totalitarianism, but by allowing secret arrests, it has gone against over 200 years of precedent of just law for all. These secret arrests result in detention for as long as the government deems it necessary. The person who is being held need not be suspected of anything more then possibly having links to terrorist organizations,. These secret arrests and indefinite jail sentences are certainly not what the Constitution means by a “speedy and public trial” and, in fact, the secret arrests are quite contradictory to the Constitution. Jose Padilla, an American citizen and suspect in an attempted detonation of a “dirty bomb”, has been held at a naval prison in South Carolina. He has been classified an enemy combatant and, therefore, does not have the intrinsic right to a lawyer because access to a lawyer could compromise months of interrogation. A federal judge has ruled that Padilla must be allowed to meet with a lawyer to try to change his enemy combatant classification. However, the government claims that the court has no right to review the classification. The US, one of the worldwide examples of fair law practices, has suddenly reversed all precedents and even contradicted its own Constitution, the example that many others in the world are based on.
The Eighth Amendment states, “cruel and unusual punishment [shall not be] inflicted” (www.house.gov). However, the US has been engaging in what is known as “torture lite” (The Guardian, March 25, 2001) at the prison in Guantanamo Bay, where 641 prisoners from Afghanistan are being held. This torture consists of such things as sleep deprivation and constant exposure to bright light. This torture is so demeaning that several inmates have attempted to kill themselves. Torture has often been seen as the worst of the cruel and unusual punishment. There is no excuse to say that merely because the US is investigating terrorism, it should be allowed to break its own conventions and Constitution. If the founding fathers meant for the Constitution to be disregarded in times of war or in times of extreme need, there would be a clause written in for that. However, aside from some very small sections, there is none, because the Constitution is supposed to be followed no matter what the situation or need.
One of the biggest concerns regarding the restrictions on civil liberties is that many times the laws that allow these abridgements do not allow for the proper system of checks and balances to prevent abuse. The US Patriot Act allows such actions as secret searches, electronic searches, and secret arrests and, furthermore, these powers can be used unilaterally by the executive branch of the United States government without any oversight. Just like the Constitution, the American system of checks and balances was not meant to be thrown out when it is inconvenient. These checks and balances allow for judicial review of laws to see if they possibly infringe upon existing laws or the constitution. In most cases, people can bring lawsuits arguing that a law is unconstitutional in an attempt to get it repealed. However, the US has set up the system such that the government is the only filer of claims upon the Patriot Act, and other related acts, so, therefore, the judiciary, and the people who appeal through the judiciary have no real representation regarding this law. In fact, one case against the Patriot Act has already been overturned on the basis that it would be very inconvenient for the government to fight terrorism and lawsuits at the same time. However, when the system is the most inconvenient is when it is most needed. The system is the most inconvenient when the most sweeping changes are being made, ones that will affect the American people the most. Therefore, it is now, when the checks and balances are most inconvenient, that they are most needed.
Another way the restrictions do not allow for the proper series of checks and balances is that the Attorney General can sometimes personally order the deportation or jailing of an alien without any review of the Attorney General’s action. The Attorney General should not have this much power because no one should have that capacity. Furthermore, the Attorney General is not an elected official. It is completely inappropriate that someone who is not elected by the people of the USA should wield this amount of power. Should Patriot II ever get passed into law, the powers could be utilized against US citizens, and would allow the Attorney General to strip someone of his or her citizenship. This would, in effect, allow the Attorney General to take out a vendetta against someone for purely personal or political reasons without any real need to prove that the person is involved in any way in terrorism.
The infringement and many times blatant disregard shown for civil liberties in trade for a “more secure America” is simply wrong. The entire system of government of the United States of America must not be disregarded when the country is at war. At many times in the past in this country, the judiciary has found it correct to question decisions made by the legislature and executives in a time of war. The US cannot simply claim that the US needs to show a unified front in the war on terror and not question the government’s judgment. Questioning the government’s judgment has been necessary before, and will be again. Restrictions of civil liberties in order to fight terror are unacceptable, unneeded, and must not be allowed.