Boston bombings must not become an excuse to trample on the constitution
We all want justice. We all want the people responsible for acts of terrorism to be caught. But we shouldn't be hasty to cede more of our liberties to the federal government
In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Boston that claimed three lives and wounded more than 170 others, the calls for a response will be loud — and inevitable. With the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnev (his brother Tamerlan was killed) last week, it's time to put politics aside. But support for tougher pieces of legislation to combat terrorism will probably arise in the near future.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which gives the federal government vast new powers, has come under scrutiny from civil liberties groups, and rightfully so. It gives government the extraordinary power of detaining U.S. citizens indefinitely. After Monday's events, I'll guess that most Americans would support such a measure, but it's times like these that we must not endorse actions that shred the Constitution.
New Hampshire has put forward a piece of legislation that would bar its law enforcement agencies from cooperating with such activities, like indefinite detention. This week, Morgan True of the Associated Press reported that "advocates of the bill to prohibit state involvement, known as the New Hampshire Liberty Act, said aiding the federal government in such arrests is a violation of the U.S. and New Hampshire Constitutions."
Furthermore, "The New Hampshire Liberty Act passed the House with an overwhelming majority. A provision making it a felony for state officials to aid or participate in arrests or detentions made under the defense act statutes was removed."
It's good to see this push back against congressional overreach. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) took to the Senate floor for a 13-hour filibuster of John Brennan's nomination to be our next CIA Director over the Obama administration's opaque drone policy, specifically if this administration had the right to conduct a drone strike on U.S. soil.
Just as it's unconstitutional to kill Americans abroad without a trial, the same should standard should apply concerning detention by law enforcement officials. In the words of George Will, "As government becomes bigger, it becomes more lawless."
With our terror policy, we've engaged in extrajudicial killings of American citizens. Anwar al-Awlaki was a bad guy, an al-Qaeda operative, and a traitor. Nevertheless, he deserved his day in court, as Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy before him, who happen to be some of the most despicable Americans that have ever been processed under our legal system.
We all want justice. We all want the people responsible for such acts to be caught. But we shouldn't be hasty to cede more of our liberties to the federal government. They already have the right to detain us. Hopefully, the capture of American terrorists abroad will replace the assassination of them.
If more pieces of anti-terror legislation are brought before Congress, let's look at them through a constitutional lens. Barack Obama and George W. Bush have shown that fraying the Constitution isn't a Republican or Democratic problem. Both parties need to be watched within this area of government policy.
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