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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/16/12

In the Constitution, "Security" Means Protection From Our Law Enforcers, Not By Them

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Cross-posted from Hightower Lowdown

The earth's core, consisting largely of iron, helps balance our spinning planet. On the other hand, the core of too many of today's prominent political leaders consists almost entirely of unintended irony, which tends to make them go all wobbly on their political stands. This might be comical were it not so destructive for our nation.

For example, check out the politicos who're raising such a cacophony these days about big, intrusive government. Ironically, they're usually the same knee-jerks who so fervidly advocate the expansion of government's biggest and most intrusive force: police power. Since 9/11, this bunch has screeched non-stop that the only way to make the American people secure in this terrifying age is to jackhammer the word "secure" out of the Fourth Amendment -- the only place in the Bill of Rights where the term appears.

The founders (made of much stronger stuff than today's political harpies) believed that genuine security for a democratic people comes from strengthening their right and ability to resist the autocratic impulses of the authorities. By deliberately placing "secure" in this key Bill of Rights passage, they certainly did not intend for it to be twisted into a meek call for ever-expanding police power to "protect" the citizenry, but instead to give citizens essential legal guarantees to protect themselves from police power.

It wasn't political theory that shaped their phrasing -- it was rough, real-life experience with King George III's security forces. Thus, they wrote with unmistakable conviction: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause...."

Those few words are our bulwark against the repressive enforcement power of a police state. Yet, practically from the start of America's democratic experiment, the rights that the founders established in Amendment IV have constantly been chipped at, frequently ignored by authorities, and occasionally suspended by fear-mongering politicians (ranging from the 1798 Alien Enemies Act to the infamous Patriot Act of 2001). The good news is that -- after an ugly, repressive interlude -- the people themselves have historically risen against each of these authoritarian assaults on the wisdom of the constitutional authors, and restored the liberty-protecting provisions of the Fourth to their proper place at the center of our nation's governing ethos.

In 2008, many voters thought that by voting for Barack Obama, they were making just such a correction to the dangerously autocratic course steered by the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft regime. And why wouldn't they? After all, despite getting hammered by Republicans for being "soft on terror," Obama had campaigned aggressively that year against such grossly unreasonable searches and seizures as the FBI's spying campaign on groups of law-abiding protestors, the Pentagon's massive, data-sucking super-computer that was covertly sifting through vast piles of personal information on millions of Americans, and the door-busting, pre-dawn raids by heavily armed federal agents into the private homes of medical marijuana users.

Shortly after taking office, the new president lifted the hopes of civil libertarians by declaring that "our values have been our best national security assets -- in war and peace; in times of ease and eras of upheaval." Yes! Correct! Excellent!

But, where'd that guy go? Fine words are about the only changes that have come from the Obama administration, which overall has been distressingly Bush-Cheneyish on expanding -- not reducing -- the power of assorted police agencies to go far beyond legitimate law enforcement.

Unbeknownst to most people -- and unmentioned by candidates in this year's presidential elections (with the important exception of Ron Paul) -- Team Obama, the entire Republican leadership, tea party lawmakers, and assorted state and local officials have jointly been moving America toward the darkness of unbridled police intrusion into our lives and liberties.

Groups fighting for the preservation of those liberties feel betrayed by a Democratic presidency that has proven to be openly hostile to the Fourth Amendment, taking regressive actions and pushing extremist laws that extend the security state beyond what even Dick Cheney could've imagined! The founders would be in a rage -- and we should be, too.

National Defense Authorization Act of 2012. This is a massive bill that okays spending $662 billion in the next fiscal year on the Pentagon's "everywhere and forever" war on terrorists, which presently involves the US in military "hostilities" in Afghanistan, Iraq (still), Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia... and, now flashing on the radar as our next war: Iran. But, what makes this year's war authorization so incendiary and outright un-American is that it explicitly expands the military's battlefield into the USA itself -- and it takes direct aim at the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Amendment rights of all citizens.

Tucked deep inside the NDAA is section 1031, a legislative atrocity that empowers any president (Obama, Romney, Gingrich, Trump, Palin, whomever) to order the military to sweep in, seize, and imprison anyone anywhere (including any place in America) and hold them indefinitely without charging them with any crime or putting them on trial. All this can be done simply on the say-so of a president that the hapless detainee might have some kind of connection (which need not be stated and can be very vague, distant, and totally innocent) to any group that authorities suspect of being involved in terrorism. Some legal scholars say the act encourages just about anyone with a badge to send a fellow citizen to military detention, to be tried if and when the President says so.

This autocratic "homeland battlefield" decree reincarnates King George III and his tyrannical Redcoats! It enables one official to cancel a sheaf of our fundamental constitutional rights: probable cause, arrest by written warrant, no deprivation of liberty without due process, speedy and public trial by an impartial jury, and habeas corpus.

How did this get written into law? By stealth. Pushed by the super-hawk GOP House, a mere handful of congressional and White House leaders negotiated in secret late last year to slip 1031 into the bill with no public input nor a recorded vote. Publicly, Obama made a show of opposing it, even threatening a veto. But Sen. Carl Levin, a key negotiator for Democrats, refutes that pose, saying the White House had demanded that American citizens be included as proper targets of the provision.

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Jim Hightower is an American populist, spreading his message of democratic hope via national radio commentaries, columns, books, his award-winning monthly newsletter (The Hightower Lowdown) and barnstorming tours all across America.

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