Source: Lady Bud
The philosophical underpinnings of America have traditionally been based on constraining the federal government through the interpretation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Americans though, have willingly given up their rights based on security concerns, fear and perception of crime.
These fears have largely been driven by politicians, the media and “the crime du jour” which sensationalizes horrific events with the promise that one more law will fix our communities, or save America from terrorists. These public safety security concerns started with the Drug War and have expanded in a further deterioration of our civil liberties in the post 9/11 decade.
The War on Terror is now firmly entrenched in American life. This permanent emergency has been supported in large part because of policy interests that create fear and juxtapose that fear to patriotism. This creates a paradigm unprecedented in our society as Americans have accepted limiting their rights based not on facts, or critical analysis of a policy and what it is designed to do, but on sound bites and rhetoric.
“This creates a paradigm that is unprecedented in our society as Americans have accepted limiting their rights based not on facts, or critical analysis of a policy and what it is designed to do, but on sound bites and rhetoric.”
In a 2009 media appearance expanding a federal anti-drug program, President Bush linked the War on Drugs to the War on Terror stating, “drug-users aid terrorists who get their money from global trafficking in narcotics. If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terrorism.”
This simplistic solution to ending drug addiction and terrorism reflects the lack of clarity by our elected officials in designing policy and laws that support the enshrined rights of Americans, yet allows government to do their job through the fair administration of the law.
Unintended and unforeseen consequences can and do result from laws crafted during times of emergency. It can contribute to “mission creep” in law enforcement investigations, thus allowing the intent of the law to be usurped by allowing “powers for one purpose being used for another.”
A classic example is noted by the ACLU at the 10th anniversary of the Patriot Act. This particular blog showed what investigations had, in fact, been conducted under the category for delayed-notice search warrants, more commonly known as “sneak and peak” warrants through the provisions of the Patriot Act. It is telling that in ten years there were only 15 terrorism related “sneak and peak” warrants issued while the rest were predominantly for drugs.
It is this mission creep which has led to many of the abuses behind not just the Drug War, but the War on Terror. It is the permanent state of war that has contributed to the lack of transparency that should concern all Americans as laws and technology collide. How do we balance the need for security and maintain our civil liberties? It is this discussion that is critical and requires the full light of day.
It is my hope Americans today have finally reached the limit of government intrusion into our lives by making a choice between valuing security over our constitutionally enshrined rights. We can no longer blindly cede power to a “government gone wild” without demanding accountability. Whether Edward Snowden is a whistle blower, a criminal, or a conscientious objector to the Executive Branch’s war on our Constitution is immaterial to me. What matters is we must demand action, information and oversight of our government before it’s too late.
About the author: Diane Wattles-Goldstein
Diane Goldstein is a 21-year veteran of law enforcement who retired as the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police Department, (CA). During her career she worked and managed a variety of patrol and investigative units. She is recognized as a subject matter expert and trainer in the area of crisis negotiations and critical incident management. She was one of the original founders of the California Association of Hostage Negotiators receiving an Honorary Life Member Award in 2007. She is a speaker and Executive Board Member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a guest columnist for The 420 Times, Ladybud Magazine and the Huffington Post and has appeared on radio, and television as a commentator.
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