Don’t compromise values for safety
Published: Saturday, December 3, 2011
Updated: Sunday, December 4, 2011 16:12
Department of Defense spending bill that recently passed the United States Senate and is now headed for the U.S. House of Representatives contains a provision that could gravely affect American citizens.
A provision of this bill requires military custody of a terror suspect believed to be a member of al-Qaida or its affiliates and involved in attacks on the U.S., according to the Christian Science Monitor.
An amendment was added at the last minute, which allows the president to waive the authority on the basis of national security and to hold a terror suspect in civilian rather than military custody. The bill would deny U.S. citizens the right to trial, according to the Monitor, which would subject them to indefinite detention. Civil libertarians have found the amendment to be meaningless.
The ramifications of this bill are serious and could put innocent Americans at the risk of military detention without being charged or tried in a court of law. Libertarians are arguing that this bill gives the president authority that he is not allowed to have. Libertarian party chair Mark Hinkle echoed the same point recently, according to the Monitor.
"If the president thinks you are a terrorist, let him present charges and evidence to a judge," Hinkle said. "He has no authority to lock you up without any judicial review, just because he and Congress believe he should have unlimited power. That is the kind of power held by tyrants in totalitarian regimes. It has no place in the United States."
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) also spoke out against the measure. They argue that Americans merely suspected of a crime could be sent off to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, according to the Monitor.
To counter these arguments, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) says that the point of this provision is specifically to make the country more safe, according to the Monitor.
"It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help al-Qaida to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next," Graham said. "And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,' you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don't get a lawyer.'"
The president has the responsibility of keeping this country safe and enforcing the laws of the U.S. It is wrong to believe, however, that we must sacrifice our principles for the sake of this security. We can enforce the law and continue to uphold due process in our country. To do otherwise puts the lives of innocent Americans at risk and jeopardizes the principles that this country was founded upon.
The strength of this country comes from the principle of due process under the law, the belief that someone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. This is the cornerstone of our democracy, and we must not sacrifice it in the name of national security. As Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1755, "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."