12/01 War: How Freedoms Are Lost

War: How Freedoms Are Lost
Larry Pratt

Hopefully the war against Al Qaeda and other similar networks of radical Islamic terrorists will send them packing the way Thomas Jefferson successfully spanked the Barbary pirates.

May they pass from the scene come soon, before what’s left of the freedoms we are supposed to be fighting for are completely shredded in the name of patriotic defense of the Fatherland.

Following on the heals of passage of the so-called USA Patriot Act, more properly known as the Government War on the Constitution Act, comes a measure for which we cannot even blame the Congress.

The talking heads and pundits are beginning to discuss the pros and cons of torture, secret trials, military tribunals and anonymous detentions. Now, all but torture has been declared by Presidential stroke of the pen to be the law the of the land.

President Bush has, by executive order, established military courts empowered to ignore important constitutional protections — protections which apply to not just citizens, but to persons. That’s the language of the Constitution.

We are only one step from extending such unconstitutional authority over citizens who are allegedly involved with a non-citizen accused of terrorism. Why not, to use the logic of the anti-gunners, invent a charge of conspiracy to aid terrorism by selling firearms — something that once was a constitutionally protected act subject to no infringement whatsoever.

A sign that maybe the march toward a police state has gone too fast is the opposition to the military tribunals coming from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy, along with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah and NRA Board member, Republican Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia.

At the moment, suspected terrorists can be tried, convicted and sentenced to death by a non-unanimous vote of officers in a secret proceeding. It has yet to be satisfactorily explained to congressional critics why the present judiciary system is inadequate. In the conviction of the 1993 World Trade bombers, existing law enabled the government to keep certain evidence secret in order to protect the identify of sources and informants.

We at Gun Owners of America have been outraged when the federal government managed to listen in on conversations between a GOA attorney and a defendant he was counseling. That will be par for the course if you are a non-citizen charged with terrorism. It would not be a big jump to include gun owners and firearms dealers in the “terrorist” net so that their attorney-client conversations could be monitored by Big Brother, too.

Question: When do we get to listen in on the government’s deliberations?

The case has not been made for this piercing of constitutional protections. We had better say something now, or to paraphrase the lament of an anti-Nazi resistance leader, “I didn’t say anything when they came for the middle eastern non-citizens, because I wasn’t one of them; I didn’t say anything when they came for citizens accused of terrorism, because I wasn’t a terrorist; I didn’t speak out when they came for gun owners, because I wasn’t one of them; nobody spoke out when they branded me a terrorist and came for me because all crimes had been labeled as terrorism and there wasn’t anybody else left to speak for me.”

Senator Phil Gramm of Texas put it well when he warned us that “We should be changing the terrorists’ way of life, not our own.”