Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Erosion of Civil Liberties

I'm not normally a big fan of Glenn Greenwald, but he has an excellent post up regarding the erosion of civil liberties in this country due to the war on terror:

A bipartisan group from Congress sponsors legislation to strip Americans of their citizenship based on Terrorism accusations.  Barack Obama claims the right to assassinate Americans far from any battlefield and with no due process of any kind.  The Obama administration begins covertly abandoning long-standing Miranda protections for American suspects by vastly expanding what had long been a very narrow "public safety" exception, and now Eric Holder explicitly advocates legislation to codify that erosion.  John McCain and Joe Lieberman introduce legislation to bar all Terrorism suspects, including Americans arrested on U.S. soil, from being tried in civilian courts

I've written before that Obama's civil liberties record has been, to me, far and away the most disappointing part of his presidency. For the most part, nothing Obama has done as president should have surprised anyone who paid close attention to his campaign and his books. Perhaps I'm misremembering, but I do not remember him being this blase about civil liberties.

Putting aside concerns about Obama's consistency on the issue or even problems with constitutionality, this erosion of our liberties threatens the very values our country was founded on. In addition, it's unnecessary and counterproductive. What are we, if not a country based on the rule of law? If we really want to combat terrorism, let's do it by showing what a great country this is. It's a country where everyone gets a fair trial, no matter their crime, ethnicity, or even citizenship.

The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. Put another way, terrorism is violence done with the intention of provoking a reaction in the political realm. The best way to combat terrorism is to show that it doesn't work. Resist the temptation to give terrorists the reaction they're looking for. Unfortunately, we seem to exacerbate the problem. Every time we crack down on civil liberties, we do two things. First, we reinforce the impression that we are intent upon doing injustice to Muslims, making it more likely that we will be attacked again and again. Second, we make the US a less desirable place for skilled immigrants and tourists. By reacting as the terrorists want, we are helping them achieve their goals.

I said it before, the best response to terrorist attacks is to embrace our legal system, not circumvent it. Our liberty is our strength. I don't know why President Obama insists on undermining it.

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