Has the “land of the free and home of the brave” decided to roll over and concede defeat to terrorism?
George Bush’s “war on terror,” supinely backed by a cowed Congress of Democrats and Republicans, re-introduced torture to the American playbook, finished what Bill Clinton started in taking away our right to habeus corpus, made illegal wiretapping routine and built a culture of fear in our national psyche in order to keep us from rising up against these assaults on our Constitution. Barack Obama has continued these practices and gone further with his obsession with drone attacks worldwide, including strikes that murder American citizens without even bothering with indictments, let alone trials, and with his further expansion of wiretaps, secret government and police spying and repression of Constitutionally protected protest.
Now, in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt, we’re being told that there are a couple of new aspects to this “new normal” that we’ll just have to get used to. Functional martial law–the shutting down of an entire metropolitan region — has now happened without even an official declaration from the governor or the president. Our 4th Amendment right protecting us from unwarranted search and seizure no longer has any meaning if the powers that be deem it inconvenient. And the right to be told that we can remain silent rather than incriminate ourselves under interrogation is now optional, again at the discretion of the police authorities.
Let’s examine these two new nails in the Constitution’s coffin. During the manhunt, Boston and federal authorities, backed by National Guard troops and possibly private mercenaries (who were observed, though never officially acknowledged, working at the scene of the marathon), locked down the city, ordering residents to stay inside while police officers ignored the fourth amendment and entered any house at will in their search.
It is argued by government officials and an eager-to-cooperate corporate media that the bombing was an extraordinary event requiring special measures. Sure, an allegedly dangerous man was on the loose. Yet many an armed and dangerous man has been on the loose before, and we have never before seen fit to jettison constitutional rights during the capture process. (Only recently a far more dangerous man, a rogue LAPD cop and military veteran trained in the use of dangerous weapons, had announced his intention to murder many police and political figures and was on the loose, but there was no martial law declared during that manhunt.)
Now that the second Boston bombing suspect has been captured, we are told that he was intentionally deprived of his Miranda rights to remain silent and have an attorney present before he was questioned — for 16 hours — by a crack FBI interrogation team while under sedation and in serious condition locked to a hospital bed.
This wholesale violation of his basic Constitutional right against self-incrimination was based on an already flimsy “national security” executive order signed in secret in 2010 by Obama — an order which unconstitutionally permits ignoring the Miranda warning if society is deemed to be in imminent danger. Legality of that order aside, in the Boston case, however, the very fact that authorities waited patiently for the suspect to regain consciousness and some level of coherence gives the lie to the notion that anything other than a constitutional breach occurred, even assuming the executive order were valid.
Video and eyewitness evidence has already given prosecutors a mountain of evidence that should be sufficient to pursue a case against the alleged bomber. If they simply wanted to get information from him to protect the public regarding possible confederates or other planned bombings, they could have let him have a lawyer, pointed out him the strength of the case against him and offered him some limited immunity in terms of a reduced charge or a dropping of any capital charge, if he agreed to tell them all there was to learn.
So why the rush to suspend our constitutional rights? For that matter, why is this mass killing even being labeled an act of terrorism, while the Aurora Colorado mass killing, which also featured an apartment full of explosives and even more innocents killed, is still referred to only as a criminal act? Why is murder by bomb called terrorism, while murder by gun seems to be just an unfortunate aspect of America’s tradition of violent behavior? Is it the fact that the Boston bombers have an alleged Islamic association that brands them terrorists? If James Holmes (the Aurora shooter) were a Moslem, would he now be labeled a terrorist as well?
The shock of events in Boston may have made it easier for the public to acquiesce to the loss of their liberties for the moment, but the civil liberty erosions that ensued will not be a one-time event. History shows Boston will just be another step in the inevitable one-way slide that we are taking as a nation towards authoritarian government, where arbitrary decisions about our supposed welfare are made without the benefit of law, the Constitution or our own input.
Perhaps many of us have been convinced, thanks to corporate media propaganda and the rantings of political charlatans, that American fascism would be a benevolent fascism, but that is an extremely risky bet to make and one that we will certainly regret in the future. Other countries seem to be able to cope with terror attacks without discarding their established rule of law. Germany withstood the Baader-Meinhoff gang, Italy the Red Brigades, and Spain its Basque separatist violence.
Surely the American people could to continue to live under the legal system that has served us since our inception — a system in which police confronted acts of violence as a policing matter not as hyped-up supposedly mortal threats to our nation. Surely we are capable of understanding that while we enjoyed a long period when terrorism was mostly something that happened elsewhere, it has now caught up to us and will be with us in some form from now on — just another threat like the spasms of psycho-violence which plague us.
Indeed, a Washington Post poll taken after the Boston attack shows that a majority of Americans are not altering their daily routines to avoid terrorism. The poll also shows that we don’t have much faith in the government to prevent such events, or with the way the government is hacking away at our civil liberties, with a plurality of respondents saying that they think the government has gone overboard in undermining civil liberties in the name of combating terrorism.
It is only Official America that has decided to take draconian steps to curtail our liberties in the name of safety. It’s Official America that makes the ludicrous assertion that our soil can be kept absolutely safe and secure from ever suffering such attacks. It is Official America that is so eager to grant unprecedented power to police and national security officials over our lives at the expense of our republic’s founding and guiding principals in the name of achieving this unachievable goal. It is Official America that is engineering our demise as a free republic and leading us in their brave new police-state world.
Dan DeWalt is an activist and journalist based in New Fane, VT. He wrote this article exclusively for ThisCantBeHappening!