A federal court judge has recently reaffirmed that warrantless searches are illegal, among other things, on the grounds that they violate the quite clear wording of the 14th Amendment which states “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
The President and, as usual, the self styled “Conservatives” who apparently want him to have the sole determination of whether liberty or individual rights may continue to exist have mounted two attacks on the decision. The first is to trumpet the “terrorism threat” that has been used to justify almost every assault on the Constitution since 9/11. It boils down to there are supposedly no other ways to effectively prevent terrorism, so we apparently must destroy the Constitution in order to “save” it. While it didn’t seem necessary to go that far when we were battling genuinely terrifying world powers like Germany, Japan or the Soviet Union, for some reason, the Conservatives insist it is suddenly the sole hope against an opponents who is hiding out in a cave.
The second attack advanced by Conservatives against the Constitution is a more insidious one, one that started in 1954 when the federal courts decreed that blacks and minorities may not be segregated after all. It is that assertion that “Liberal activist” judges have been exceeding their authority. This theory has been gaining strength since the Roe v. Wade ruling indicating that privacy is a protected right as well. Unfortunately, the mantra has been repeated so often, some people, for the most part those who have never bothered to read the Constitution, seem to actually believe it.
Naturally, the judge who upheld the Constitution against the Presidents domestic spying programs is loudly portrayed by Conservatives as being just another such “activist."
Activisim it may be, but certain activism is fully permitted by the Constitution itself. For instance, it is one thing for a judge to interpret ambiguous clauses in the Constitution as allowing greater articulation of individual rights including those not previously mentioned, such as the right of “privacy.” Since the Constitution expressly states in Amendment IX though that “the enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” how can it be argued otherwise? In other words, “activisim,” to use the term Conservatives disparage, is fully permissible where individual rights are concerned.
It is quite a different thing for the President to deliberately ignore plain and unignorable language in the Constitution like the overt prohibition against warrantless searches. He seems to have forgotten he sworn an oath of office which states in elegant simplicity “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Note that it is the Constitution and the Constitution alone singled out in that oath for protection. Similar language is included in the oaths for many other offices including for Congress and officers in the military.
To violate that oath of office is probably one of the “high crimes and misdemeanors” enshrined in the Constitution by our forefathers as a reason to impeach the President. If the President persists in forgetting his duties, perhaps he ought to be reminded.
Or, Suppose the Middle East was our Far West
For the last 50 years, relatively few Americans have ever experienced anything like 9/11 first hand. A few million or so were close enough to ground zero in New York to smell and hear it as it happened. A few thousand in Oklahoma City lived sufficiently near to the Federal Building to have their windows blown out when Timothy McVey decided to show how Americans can be good at terrorism too. A few hundred were in the Colorado and Oregon high schools when kids went on random shooting sprees. A few dozen have been unfortunate enough to witness bombings of abortion clinics or hear the supersonic crack of a serial sniper’s bullet. Terrifying terrorism events each and every one, but in this country, they are noteworthy for their rarity here in both time and distance.
Granted, they were life disrupting events as well as life ending for some. They scared and scarred TV spectators far and near as well as the unwilling participants. At the same time, for the most part, other than the lost loved ones and the traumatic stress syndrome, “everything” was not changed. For the most part, the change was only a few days or weeks or months in duration except for comparatively minor aspects of daily life like taking off shoes when going to the airport. The anguish no doubt is still there undiminished for many, but not all, not even for all those present at the scene when it happened. Frankly, an observer from another planet would be hard pressed to see much physical difference in the daily conduct of life on our West Coast before and after those events. People still go to malls, stand in line at movies, attend concerts, open their front doors to total strangers and do not have bomb shelters or buried supplies.
If you count in the ghettos of LA and other big cities where gangs and drive-by shootings are more frequent, there is some permanent change in how locals wake up each morning. In those more permanently risky places, many do wonder whether they will be lucky enough to survive the day. Nevertheless, most folks don’t live in ghettos. The blood and bandages, the debris and dead children is far, far away.
Suppose we weren’t so lucky. We’ve all seen the destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine and Israel. It’s all over the TV. Even if you don’t watch the news, it’s on the covers of newspapers and magazines in plain sight at every newsstand. We’ve even seen it, or what looks like it, on the big screen. Hollywood is pretty good at picturing the trauma. BUT, have any of us who were born here and never went where the bullets and bombs were flying ourselves ever really thought about it except in the abstract?
Now is the time. They may have been unspeakable act, but we do need to speak about them. Here is a mental exercise for you. Think about the unthinkable in concrete terms, real concrete. Imagine what is happening “over there” occupying the very concrete laid down in your own US postoffice zip code. Forget for the moment what Hollywood star is sleeping with whom. Picture what is happening in the Middle East happening to you and yours where you can see it outside your front door.
For instance, imagine if you were afraid to go to the ironically titled Safeway for food because someone may detonate a bomb next to you in the checkout line. Imagine your nearest Target in the target sights of a military jet. Still want to shop there? Do you want to play “Russian Roulette” every time you step through revolving doors at the store?