While the rest of the Washington, D.C. political establishment is losing its collective minds over the latest terrorist attack in Orlando, Fla. and what it means for our society, allow us to set out a very clear marker on what the attack does not mean.
The massacre at the Pulse Night Club by an Islamist killer does not mean that rights can now be denied by the government merely based on suspicion.
Let’s go through the list, since everyone seems to need a refresher.
The government cannot deny an individual’s the right to speak out, or to practice his or her religion, or publish an article, or gather to protest any policy, simply because a bureaucrat says that person is suspicious.
The government cannot engage in mass surveillance over the entire nation, gathering phone and other electronic records, simply because the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court deems some persons in the country might be suspicious. Similarly, an individual cannot be put under surveillance without a warrant demonstrating probable cause that he or she has committed or is about to commit a crime.
The government cannot fly drones over our heads and exterminate individuals deemed enemy combatants by the President because he or she was suspicious of certain individuals.
The government cannot deny an individual trial by jury simply because the defendant was suspicious.
The government cannot quarter troops in homes simply because they find those homes to be suspicious.
The government cannot compel you to testify against yourself, even when you are under suspicion.
And the government cannot deny the individual right to keep and bear arms — that is, to purchase a firearm — simply because the government finds an individual to be suspicious.
Not under the Constitution, that is.
Do you know why?
All of the aforementioned rights — and others — are protected by the U.S. Constitution. But, the one that makes it all work in an orderly fashion, and limits and restricts the government’s ability to curtail all of these rights is the Fifth Amendment.
You know, the one that says, “No person shall… be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”
In other words, unless you have been convicted of a crime, the government has absolutely no basis in restricting your liberty. Or killing you. Or seizing your property.
And the government cannot convict you of a crime without that important trial by jury.
And it cannot arrest you in the first place to try you for that crime without probable cause that you committed the crime.
The government cannot go ask a judge or any other government official to deny you your rights out of suspicion. That is not due process. It is arbitrary coercion. It is making all rights little more than privileges that can be revoked at will.
Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) was able to identify due process on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, that is, as an obstacle to his totalitarian delusions.
“It’s due process, it’s all due process,” Manchin complained. “So can’t we say that if someone is under suspicion that there ought to be a five-year period of time that we have to see if there’s good behavior? If this person continues the same traits? Maybe we can come to that type of an agreement. But due process is what’s killing us right now.”
Manchin has fallen a long way from his TV ad promise when he shot holes in Cap and Trade legislation.
No, Joe, you can’t have a five-year waiting periods and then if you behave well you get to exercise your rights. It’s insane, and we’d have to be insane as a society to accept it. No longer free. But prisoners of the state.
Senators take an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Since Manchin — and rest of the Washington, D.C. political establishment — have now decided that the Constitution is the problem, they can no longer fulfill their oaths. Manchin and others’ only honorable course of action is to resign.
Or, file an amendment to do away with due process.
But enough of this security versus liberty debate. It’s wrong. Whatever we might have thought after 9/11. It’s just wrong. There are neither wartime nor political exceptions to individual rights under the Constitution. Look it up. Read it for yourself. It’s not in there. Those rights apply across the board, to every person in the country, regardless of the political situation on Capitol Hill or how many killers are roaming around.
Don’t like it?
Go live in China or North Korea or Iran. They don’t like rights too much. They lack constitutional protections and have no problems squelching dissent, making people disappear and all other sorts of evils.
If we want to have a sane, rational debate about how to protect our society that does not include stripping the American people of their rights merely out of suspicion, fine, let’s have at it. Otherwise it would seem Sen. Manchin and others really need to get their heads examined.