What We’ve Lost Since 9/11 – Peter Van Buren
America has entered its third great era: the post-constitutional one.
In the first, in the colonial years, a unitary executive, the King of England, ruled without checks and balances, allowing no freedom of speech, due process, or privacy when it came to protecting his power.
In the second, the principles of the Enlightenment and an armed rebellion were used to push back the king’s abuses. The result was a new country and a new constitution with a Bill of Rights expressly meant to check the government’s power.
Now, we are wading into the shallow waters of a third era, a time when that government is abandoning the basic ideas that saw our nation through centuries of challenges far more daunting than terrorism.
Constitution-Free Zone – Todd Miller
You’re not in the United States… this land isn’t your land, not anymore. It’s a place controlled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and your constitutional rights do not apply on their territory. CBP can, and does, detain Americans, search them without warrant, and physically mistreat them in what has become, for our 9/11 sins, a Post-Constitutional legal purgatory. You are neither outside their grasp in a foreign land, nor protected from them by being inside America. (introduction by Tom Engelhardt)
While such constitutionally questionable intrusions into people’s privacy have been increasing at border crossings in the post-9/11 years, this type of hardline border policing has also moved inland….the sort of intrusions that once would have qualified as unconstitutional have moved in startling numbers into the interior of the country.
Imagine the once thin borderline of the American past as an ever-thickening band, now extending 100 miles inland around the United States — along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border, and both coasts — and you will be able to visualize how vast the CBP’s jurisdiction has become. This “border” region now covers places where two-thirds of the U.S. population (197.4 million people) live. The ACLU has come to call it a “constitution-free zone.”
In these vast domains, Homeland Security authorities can institute roving patrols with broad, extra-constitutional powers backed by national security, immigration enforcement, and drug interdiction mandates. There, the Border Patrol can set up traffic checkpoints and fly surveillance drones overhead with high-powered cameras and radar that can track your movements. Within 25 miles of the international boundary, CBP agents can enter a person’s private property without a warrant. In these areas, the Homeland Security state is anything but abstract. On any given day, it can stand between you and the grocery store.
Imagine what can happen to anyone in a realm where, increasingly, anything goes, including the Constitution.
There are several important reasons why the resurgence of torture remains a possibility in post-Bush America:
- Torture did not necessarily end when Obama took office.
- We have never had a full accounting of all the torture programs in the “war on terror.”
- Not one of the senior government officials responsible for activities that amounted to war crimes has been held accountable, nor were any of the actual torturers ever brought to court.
There is a word for people whose first concern is always for their own safety and who will therefore permit anything to be done in their name as long as it keeps them secure. Such people are sometimes called cowards.