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Tag Archives: Civil Liberties

The Patriot Act at Your Library

This sign, posted at a library in Massachusetts, is a reminder of the violation of civil liberties under the PATRIOT Act. They can inspect the books you check out, and librarians cannot warn you that FBI agents are looking at you reading history. Not surprisingly, the American Library Association opposes these provisions. “The American Library Association (ALA) opposes any use of governmental power to suppress the free and open exchange of knowledge and information or to intimidate individuals exercising free inquiry…ALA considers that sections of the USA PATRIOT ACT are a present danger to the constitutional rights and privacy rights of library users. Some courageous librarians stood up to this act. Legislative action against NSLs (national security letters demanding information about people) has been mixed. Librarians who receive NSLs are basically under a gag order. According to the ACLU 200,000 such letters have been issued (librarians are just one group who can receive these letters. Our nation is under attack by those who use scare tactics as an excuse to take away civil liberties. Thankfully, some courts still stand up for the Constitution. How long before even legal recourse becomes difficult or impossible?

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Government, Justice, libertarianism, liberty

 

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The Heritage Foundation and the NDAA

I wrote earlier about the National Defense Authorization Act. This dangerous legislation would give increased power to the President to detain suspected terrorists or their supporters without a trial, whether citizens or not. I have noticed that honest liberals who care about civil liberties and the libertarians are going crazy about this, and rightly so. But I have not heard a peep from the right.

I went to the Heritage Foundation to find what they thought about it. I may have missed something, but the most recent articles I could find were from mid-October. The titles of the two pieces were promising: “Common-Sense Principles for Detainee Policy” and “Proposed Detainee Legislation May Overstep Constitutional Authority” Yes! The Heritage Foundation still stands for the constitution! But then I read what the articles actually said. The first article includes this: “As the House and Senate debate the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, The Heritage Foundation’s Charles Stimson notes that some of the provisions up for debate infringe upon the President’s constitutional powers.” What? The provisions may infringe on the President’s powers?

Two things about this. One, this is exactly what the Administration originally said about this. They complained that the President should answer to no one when detaining people without trial. It is strange to see the President and the Heritage Foundation in agreement on this issue. Second, this is absurd. The bill expands the President’s codified power in an almost unprecedented way. The rights of the alleged terrorists and supporters under the constitution are being infringed upon, not some presidential power hidden or implied in any part of the Constitution.

This is a betrayal of the constitution, individual rights, and the people of the United States. Two years ago, I would have been shocked to hear that the Heritage Foundation would support unfettered government power to detain people, including citizens. Now, from a libertarian perspective, I am not surprised to see the “right” and the “left” conspiring to give more power to the government and implement policies befitting of a totalitarian state in the name of safety.

Normally the “right” distrusts the Obama administrations use of power. However, when it comes to national defense, they often trust anyone who is claiming to protect the homeland. Hence, the second article says this: “But most of the proposed legislation potentially encroaches on the commander in chief’s executive power under the U.S. Constitution, denies the President needed flexibility, or exists solely because of distrust of this Administration’s wartime detention decisions.” This is so ironic. The Heritage Foundation ridiculing distrust of President Obama? The American people have every reason to doubt this Administration’s wartime detention decisions. He ran on ending Guantanamo and then reversed course and quietly supports it in almost the same way as his predecessor, continuing to question habeas corpus and basic human rights. Now he has lent his support to a bill that would allow indefinite detention of US citizens without a trial. This President does not need greater flexibility. All those who wield tremendous power need to be restrained. The Constitution attempted to do so, with very limited success.

The American people need to wake up. The “left” and the “right” are saying very little as our freedoms are being taken away. As Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Government, Justice, libertarianism, liberty, Media, News

 

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Torture and the Golden Rule

There has been a lot of controversy in our country about the use of torture or “enhanced interrogation techniques” to gain information. Both sides of the issue have stated their case boldly and with vigor. Unfortunately, those who supposedly stand for morality and liberty have more often than not taken the position that torture is morally justifiable, necessary, or even good. However, I believe that a biblical understanding of this issue will lead us to the conclusion that torture is morally wrong, even as a means of supposedly saving lives.

First, the Golden Rule is one of Jesus’ basic ethical statements.

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Paul stated it this way:

“Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Romans 13:10

I do not know anyone who could say that they want to be waterboarded, or that inflicting pain or terror on others is an act of love. Torture is a violation of the most basic moral teaching of Jesus.

Second, torture is immoral force that is outside the government’s proper jurisdiction.According to Romans 13, the government exists to punish evil, and that is why it uses force.

“For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4

When the government tortures, it does not do so as an act of punishment. It is not concerned with the guilt or innocence of the one being tortured; it is only concerned with the information it can gather. Now they may use this information to punish those who do evil, but the end does not justify the means. When government uses unjustified force, it has crossed a very serious line.

Third, torture sets a very dangerous precedent. Some of those being tortured are held without trial. They are not being accused and punished, but tortured and indefinitely detained. This is a very serious precedent. If the government can suspend the civil liberties of foreign terrorists who are not citizens, it can suspend the liberties of law-abiding Americans as well. A government that can torture is a government that can do almost anything.

America should take the moral high ground and only use the sword to punish those who do wrong. Lovers of righteousness and liberty should examine their position carefully, and ensure that they are truly supporting morally just policies.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2011 in Government, Theology

 

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