Kolassa: The Constitution Is Not the Culprit

Greg Ball on Piers Morgan (CNN)

I’ve mostly stayed out of the Boston bombing debate because terrorism is not my area. But civil liberties are, and the attacks on civil liberties I’m seeing are as egregious as the one in Boston. Right now, politicians across the country are looking for ways to strip Americans of more freedoms in the name of “security.”

First, you have New York State Senator Greg Ball, a Republican, who went on Piers Morgan’s show and said he “firmly” supported torturing Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, even though Tsarnaev is a US citizen. He’s following in the footsteps of US Senator Lindsey Graham, who tweeted last week that he wants Tsarnaev held as an enemy combatant and stripped of all his rights.

And now, we’re having more discussions about putting even more security cameras on city streets. Yes, I realize they helped catch Tsarnaev. But thanks to well-meaning yet utterly useless folks at Reddit, it also created a lot of conspiracy theories and made dozens of new Richard Jewells out of innocent folks. Does any conservative really want an Orwellian state that can use a system of cameras to track your every movement? Imagine a network that tracked every time you went to a gun store.

Finally, take Micheal “Big Nanny” Bloomberg. Jill Colvin of the Politicker quoted him saying “Look, we live in a very dangerous world. We know there are people who want to take away our freedoms.” But the people who want to take away our freedoms are not the terrorists, but rather politicians like Bloomberg. Just a few lines earlier, he said that our understanding of the Constitution will “have to change” to have better security. You know what that means.

To all these politicians–Republicans, Democrats, independents, whatever–the message we must send is clear. The Constitution is not the culprit. And Republicans like Senators Ball and Graham who want to ignore it, and politicians like Bloomberg who want to strip it clean, should be ashamed of themselves.

Just before the bombing, we had a huge debate on guns. Conservatives, rightly, were defending the right to have a gun as essential, ingrained into the Constitution via the Second Amendment. But now, wrongly, they are seeking to toss parts of it out just to nab one guy for this tragedy. These are similar arguments to the ones made back in 2009, when the underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was tried in a civilian court. What happened? He plead guilty to all eight counts and is now serving a life sentence without parole. The civilian justice system, with all of its constitutional protections of the Bill of Rights and guarantees of due process, worked. You don’t hear much chatter about Abdulmutallab anymore. I wonder why.

Those of us who believe in the Constitution and the principle of limited government with enumerated powers and unlimited natural rights should be alarmed at these developments. Allowing politicians to strip the rights of even one individual threatens all of us. If they can do this to Tsarnaev, or declare that our interpretation of the Constitution must be redesigned, where will they stop? We can have no idea where the slippery slope ends, but wherever it does it cannot be good.

And what would be gained by taking hacksaws to the Constitution? We did that in the wake of 9/11 with the PATRIOT Act, the TSA, and lately the NDAA with the provisions for indefinite detention. None of that prevented Boston. Instead, all it did was give government employees a reason to grope you in airports and let bureaucrats be even more busybody than usual. So not only would we have fewer rights and liberties, we would also be just as unsafe as before.

Undoubtedly, there are things we can do. Not going abroad in search of monsters to destroy is one. A second may be to end the war on drugs so law enforcement can devote more time to these matters. But whatever the answer may be, I know this: it does not involve redesigning the Constitution. That is not, and never has been, the problem.