Saturday, December 17, 2005

Respect for the Constitution and Law

You probably recall elementary school where you learned that the American Revolutionary War was fought over the principle of “No taxation without representation!” Remember the Boston Tea Party?

My friend, Wayne Anthony Ross, who is a big mucky-muck in the NRA makes the case that it was fought over the right to own guns (or at least, that was the spark that ignited it at Lexington and Concord.) As usual, WAR is wrong.

Here’s the real deal: it was all about freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the right enjoyed by Americans, which is enshrined in the Bill of Rights in the Fourth Amendment. That’s the view of John Adam’s anyway, and he was there at the time. You can read all about it in a book by Sam Dash, who achieved fame as the chief counsel for the Senate’s Watergate Committee. It's called The Intruders: Unreasonable Searches and Seizures from King John to John Ashcroft (2004).

You see, when the Founders signed the Declaration of Independence and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and sacred honor to the cause of freedom, they fully appreciated what William Pitt meant, when he said, “A man’s home is his castle.” The plaintiff in the companion to that case was the first man to successfully sue the British Crown after officers searched his house under a general warrant. He was so highly regarded as a hero in the fight for liberty that a half a century later, Americans were naming their babies after him. His name was John Wilkes.

Well, I was thinking of that revolutionary fervor when I changed the heading on my blog. Follow the link above.

Some people think the most important freedom is the freedom to elect the people who rule our country. I’ll have more to say about that in a different posting.

By 1949, Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, had been the chief United States prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. In Brinegar v. United States (1949) 338 U.S. 160, 180-81 he wrote as follows:

Fourth Amendment freedoms … are not mere second-class rights but belong in the catalog of indispensable freedoms. Among deprivations of rights, none is so effective in cowing a population, crushing the spirit of the individual and putting terror in every heart. Uncontrolled search and seizure is one of the first and most effective weapons in the arsenal of every arbitrary government. And one need only briefly to have dwelt and worked among a people possessed of many admirable qualities but deprived of these rights [i.e., the German people just after their years under Hitler] to know that the human personality deteriorates and dignity and self-reliance disappear where homes, persons and possessions are subject at any hour to unheralded search and seizure by the police.”

(Jackson, J., joined by Frankfurter and Murphy, JJ., dissenting).

So, now that I’ve got you thinking about the need to resist tyranny, and the extremes of inhumanity that government can sink to when it takes away the right to be left alone, take a gander at this from the New York Times of December 16, 2005:

Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Court

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible “dirty numbers” linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.

"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."

Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.

You can read the rest of the article here. Elsewhere the Times reported that “Disclosure of the eavesdropping prompted immediate calls from some lawmakers for an end to the program and for Congressional and possible criminal investigations into its operations.”

Some will say that it is too early to jump to conclusions, but faithful readers of this space know that has never stopped me before. My conclusion is that this is really big and that America is at a fork in the road. Down one path lies submission with no pretense that we live in a nation of laws, where criminals are held accountable, even if they commit their heinous acts at the highest level of government.

Or we can choose the high road. This route leads inexorably to re-affirming the principles that our country was founded on – not merely freedom, but accountability, and equal justice under the law. Of course this will mean impeaching the President of the United States, convicting him, and then commencing a criminal prosecution.

Sic semper tyrannis.

... tell 'em Big Mitch sent ya!"


WAR said...

Mitch: Thanks for thinking about me and for the nice picture.Your comments about me being wrong are just... well... wrong! While I disagree with most of the stuff on your blog, I do agree with you about the Revolutionary War being about Search and Seizure. And what started the War was the British marching to Lexington and Concord to search and seize arms and armament of the Americans. Therefore, the Revolutionary War WAS about "gun control" (like I maintain) and it began with an attempt by the then government to conduct a forceful search and seizure that was resisted by the Americans. I am sure that you and I agree on many issues, and if you think about it, you will see we agree on what started the Revolutionary War. The only issues we disagree on are the issues you are wrong on....... and many of those issues are on your blogspot! Wayne Anthony Ross

BigMitch said...

Now you see why I count WAR as a friend. We can disagree on many things, but he is never disagreeable.