TRAMPLING CIVIL RIGHTS
IN THE NAME OF NATIONAL SECURITY
- By Gary Hipple
The current surveillance by the US Government of its citizens is based on a false premise, using a historically failed concept. What could possibly be wrong with this idea?
We have all been listening to the debate regarding the electronic eavesdropping by our national government. The rationale seems to be that the primary job of the federal government is to protect the people of the United States from evil, in this case, terrorists. The claim is, even if violations of protected civil liberties occur, it is necessary in order to promote “national defense”. The problem with this premise is that it is wrong.
The primary requirement of every federal employee is spelled out in their Oath of Office. That Oath, as codified under Title 5, USC 3331 states as follows:
“I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
In other words, the primary responsibility of EVERY federal employee, elected or appointed, is not “national defense”, but to protect the US Constitution. Every law, regulation, every action taken by the President to the lowest GS-3 employee, by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to the most recent recruit, is subject to review by the courts to determine, not “national defense” but validity under the Constitution. By violating the rights of citizens protected under the Constitution, they are violating their Oath of Office.
When our forefathers wrote the Bill of Rights, they used plain, straight forward language. It was done so that even the most uneducated could clearly understand the restrictions on the federal government, not restrictions of the people. For example, the 4th Amendment is very clear about those restrictions on the government regarding the rights of individuals and their privacy. It states:
“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.”
Nowhere in this Amendment (nor anywhere else in the Constitution) does it say “except to ensure of national defense”. It says, “SHALL NOT BE VIOLATED.” Can the intent be any clearer?
The violation of Constitutional rights in order to promote “national defense” is not new. History has deemed past events to be improper, unlawful and examples of our government operating in bad faith. At times the government invokes what I refer to as the “bogey-man clause.” The problem is that nowhere within the US Constitution does one find a “bogey-man clause.” To justify the violation of protected civil rights the government always claims “national defense.”
In 1942 President Roosevelt invoked the bogey-man clause. It was supported by Congress and upheld by the US Supreme Court. As a result, over 130,000 US persons lost their protected civil liberties. Their homes searched and property seized. Ethnic Japanese US citizens and legal residents were forcibly placed in what was tantamount to prison camps. Their mail was searched, their phones tapped and they were placed under 24/7 surveillance. The bogey-man was the “Jap-man Bogey man”. Lesser known is that Americans from Germany, Italy and other European countries were held in these types of camps. The government claim: National Defense.
In the 1950’s we had a new “national defense” bogey-man. Many US persons were targeted for doing nothing more than exercising their First Amendment Rights. Mail was intercepted, admissions were coerced, 24/7 surveillance conducted. Lives were destroyed, careers ruined. The battle cry, “the Red Menace” was on the loose. The new bogey-man was the Commie-man bogey-man.
I do not need to go into how history treated these “national defense” programs. They are quite clearly defined as black moments in this country and we are ashamed to this day. Yet, here we go again.
President Obama, in his speech on Syria, said that the United States is the oldest Constitutional Democracy in existence. This is not due to our government’s efforts, but due to the citizens of this country INSISTING that the government live up to the principals and requirements established under the US Constitution. It has been the people who have mandated our freedom. The people understand that the US Constitution was written with one thought; to control government, not the people. Despite the claims that some of these freedoms hamper our “national defense”, we are still one of the safest countries in the world. Our national defense has survived very well.
We have a false premise, using a historically failed argument that we are protecting our national defense by “slightly” violating the US Constitution. There is no such thing as a “slight violation”. The US Constitution clearly establishes that it is the responsibility of the people to monitor the government. It is not the job of government to monitor its people unless there is articulable probable cause linking specific individuals to a specific crime.
History will eventually judge this course of action. If history is any indication, this will be another embarrassing example of our government gone wrong.
- Gary Hipple is a retired federal criminal investigator with nearly 30 years experience. Hipple spent the last 20 years as a special agent, with US Customs (pre-ICE age) where he conducted investigations involving international drug cartels, money laundering, fraud, firearms trafficking and terrorism. He is an active participant in the National Security Forum.