Americans – Like Nazi Germans – Don’t Notice that All of Our Rights Are Slipping Away

dronesusa

In the classic history of Nazi Germany, They Thought They Were Free, Milton Mayer writes:

“What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

The German citizens were boiling frogs … the water heating up so gradually that they didn’t realize they had to jump out of the pot to safety.

Because the exact same thing is happening to Americans (fear of terror makes people stupid no matter what country they live in), let’s remember exactly what we’ve lost in recent years …

First Amendment

The 1st Amendment protects speech, religion, assembly and the press:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

However, the government is arresting those speaking out … and violently crushing peaceful assemblies which attempt to petition the government for redress.

A federal judge found that the law allowing indefinite detention of Americans without due process has a “chilling effect” on free speech. And see this and this.

There are also enacted laws allowing the secret service to arrest anyone protesting near the president or other designated folks (that might explain incidents like this).

The threat of being labeled a terrorist for exercising our First Amendment rights certainly violates the First Amendment. The government is using laws to crush dissent, and it’s gotten so bad that even U.S. Supreme Court justices are saying that we are descending into tyranny.

For example, the following actions may get an American citizen living on U.S. soil labeled as a “suspected terrorist” today:

And holding the following beliefs may also be considered grounds for suspected terrorism:

Of course, Muslims are more or less subject to a separate system of justice in America.

And 1st Amendment rights are especially chilled when power has become so concentrated that the same agency which spies on all Americans also decides who should be assassinated.

Second Amendment

The 2nd Amendment states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Gun control and gun rights advocates obviously have very different views about whether guns are a force for violence or for good.

But even a top liberal Constitutional law expert reluctantly admits that the right to own a gun is as important a Constitutional right as freedom of speech or religion:

Like many academics, I was happy to blissfully ignore the Second Amendment. It did not fit neatly into my socially liberal agenda.

***

It is hard to read the Second Amendment and not honestly conclude that the Framers intended gun ownership to be an individual right. It is true that the amendment begins with a reference to militias: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” Accordingly, it is argued, this amendment protects the right of the militia to bear arms, not the individual.

Yet, if true, the Second Amendment would be effectively declared a defunct provision. The National Guard is not a true militia in the sense of the Second Amendment and, since the District and others believe governments can ban guns entirely, the Second Amendment would be read out of existence.

***

More important, the mere reference to a purpose of the Second Amendment does not alter the fact that an individual right is created. The right of the people to keep and bear arms is stated in the same way as the right to free speech or free press. The statement of a purpose was intended to reaffirm the power of the states and the people against the central government. At the time, many feared the federal government and its national army. Gun ownership was viewed as a deterrent against abuse by the government, which would be less likely to mess with a well-armed populace.

Considering the Framers and their own traditions of hunting and self-defense, it is clear that they would have viewed such ownership as an individual right — consistent with the plain meaning of the amendment.

None of this is easy for someone raised to believe that the Second Amendment was the dividing line between the enlightenment and the dark ages of American culture. Yet, it is time to honestly reconsider this amendment and admit that … here’s the really hard part … the NRA may have been right. This does not mean that Charlton Heston is the new Rosa Parks or that no restrictions can be placed on gun ownership. But it does appear that gun ownership was made a protected right by the Framers and, while we might not celebrate it, it is time that we recognize it.

The gun control debate – including which weapons and magazines are banned – is still in flux …

Third Amendment

The 3rd Amendment prohibits the government forcing people to house soldiers:

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Hey … we’re still honoring one of the Amendments! Score one for We the People!

Fourth Amendment

The 4th Amendment prevents unlawful search and seizure:

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, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

But the government is flying drones over the American homeland to spy on us.

Senator Rand Paul correctly notes:

The domestic use of drones to spy on Americans clearly violates the Fourth Amendment and limits our rights to personal privacy.

Paul introduced a bill to “protect individual privacy against unwarranted governmental intrusion through the use of unmanned aerial vehicles commonly called drones.”

Emptywheel notes in a post entitled “The OTHER Assault on the Fourth Amendment in the NDAA? Drones at Your Airport?”:

Many police departments are also using drones to spy on us. As the Hill reported:

At least 13 state and local police agencies around the country have used drones in the field or in training, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an industry trade group. The Federal Aviation Administration has predicted that by the end of the decade, 30,000 commercial and government drones could be flying over U.S. skies.

***

“Drones should only be used if subject to a powerful framework that regulates their use in order to avoid abuse and invasions of privacy,” Chris Calabrese, a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said during a congressional forum in Texas last month.

He argued police should only fly drones over private property if they have a warrant, information collected with drones should be promptly destroyed when it’s no longer needed and domestic drones should not carry any weapons.

He argued that drones pose a more serious threat to privacy than helicopters because they are cheaper to use and can hover in the sky for longer periods of time.

A congressional report earlier this year predicted that drones could soon be equipped with technologies to identify faces or track people based on their height, age, gender and skin color.

Even without drones, Americans are the most spied on people in world history:

The American government is collecting and storing virtually every phone call, purchases, email, text message, internet searches, social media communications, health information, employment history, travel and student records, and virtually all other information of every American. [And see this.]

Some also claim that the government is also using facial recognition software and surveillance cameras to track where everyone is going. Moreover, cell towers track where your phone is at any moment, and the major cell carriers, including Verizon and AT&T, responded to at least 1.3 million law enforcement requests for cell phone locations and other data in 2011. (And – given that your smartphoneroutinely sends your location information back to Apple or Google – it would be child’s play for the government to track your location that way.) Your iPhone, or other brand of smartphone is spying on virtually everything you do (ProPublica notes: “That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker“).

As the top spy chief at the U.S. National Security Agency explained this week, the American government is collecting some 100 billion 1,000-character emails per day, and 20 trillion communications of all types per year.

He says that the government has collected all of the communications of congressional leaders, generals and everyone else in the U.S. for the last 10 years.

He further explains that he set up the NSA’s system so that all of the information would automatically be encrypted, so that the government had to obtain a search warrant based upon probably cause before a particular suspect’s communications could be decrypted. [He specifically did this to comply with the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.] But the NSA now collects all data in an unencrypted form, so that no probable cause is needed to view any citizen’s information. He says that it is actually cheaper and easier to store the data in an encrypted format: so the government’s current system is being done for political – not practical – purposes.

He says that if anyone gets on the government’s “enemies list”, then the stored information will be used to target them. Specifically, he notes that if the government decides it doesn’t like someone, it analyzes all of the data it has collected on that person and his or her associates over the last 10 years to build a case against him.

Read the full article at: Washingtons Blog

Facebook Comments