published Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

Freedom is a greater good than safety: Boston attacks shouldn't cost us liberty

It began with a flash, a fireball that shattered glass and twisted metal, turning asphalt and nails into missiles that pierced flesh and splintered bone. Then came the shock wave, bursting eardrums, inflicting brain injuries and slamming people to the ground

Large explosions, like the ones detonated in Boston on Monday, have two distinct parts. Both are destructive. Both can be deadly.

Attacks on American soil come in two waves, as well.

First there is the attack itself, which consumes life and limb, crumbles concrete, injects fear, and unites us all through patriotism and compassion.

After the attack, with all of the loss of life, injuries, damage and panic, comes a secondary assault, often with more destructive and enduring consequences.

The first attack is performed by terrorists and vile, wicked villains. The second is executed by our government, which callously strips our rights and liberties in the name of security.


While concerned onlookers and medical professionals rushed to comfort and treat the victims of the tragic attacks in Boston, White House advisers and members of Congress were surely scurrying, as well. The best of them got to work dreaming up policies to keep Americans safe and thwart future attacks. The less noble likely wanted little more than credit for looking as if they were doing something to help in a time of crisis.

In their attempt to promote security, it is all but certain that the ideas discussed and the solutions considered by Washington powerbrokers and federal officials will do little more than lessen liberties and revoke rights.

As Washington's reply to the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 proved, freedom isn't attacked by terrorism. Freedom is attacked by lawmakers' responses to terrorism.


In the months following the terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City in 1995, Congress signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 into law. The law promised to "stop terrorists before they strike" on American soil -- a promise that was broken again Monday.

The ineffectual law demolished civil liberties and ravaged habeas corpus laws by allowing the federal government to invent secret courts that allow secret evidence, strip the rights of legal immigrants and limit the ability of death row inmates to appeal their convictions.

Of course, the federal government's rights grab following the Oklahoma City bombing was nothing compared to the response following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. In a 14-month span following 9/11, Congress authorized the Patriot Act, created the Transportation Security Administration and established the Department of Homeland Security.

It is hard to know whether the Patriot Act resulted in greater safety, but it clearly empowered the government in frightening new ways, while battering the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

The Patriot Act allowed the government to:

• Force records custodians such a libraries, schools, social work institutions and Internet service providers to turn over records to the federal government without explanation or justification.

• Seize assets from charities, even without probable cause.

• Require the release of records from telecommunications and financial services companies without any court order.

• Spy on citizens using a Cold War-era statute designed for tracking the covert activities of Soviet agents.

• Imprison American citizens without proper due process.

The TSA, which Congress promised would strengthen airport security and prevent hijackings, has become a national annoyance for its cost, inefficiency, inability to prevent security breaches and assault on Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

The final piece to the post-9/11 government incursion on freedom and Constitutional rights was the formation of the Department of Homeland Security in November 2002.

News reports indicate the bureaucracy has spied on Americans, engaged in inappropriate data mining on citizens and illegally intercepted mail, while costing taxpayers more than $700 billion. Additionally, a Homeland Security database meant to track people who are considered threats to national security has been filled with members of groups that comprise about one-third of the American population, including pro-gun, anti-death penalty, pro-abortion, anti-abortion, pro-Second Amendment, anti-war and tea party activists.

Are we more secure from government's intrusion on our rights in response to terrorism? Possibly, but likely not. We are, however, less American. Less free.


How will our nation's elected officials respond to the bombs in Boston? We will know within days. It is probable that some in Congress will work to further expand the Patriot Act and increase the authority of the Department of Homeland Security. It is likely that large congregations of people gathered for state fairs, Independence Day fireworks shows, music festivals or marathons will face a TSA-style federally imposed security detail. But at what cost?

Are the disintegration of our Constitution and the violation of our civil liberties worth the pretense of safety? Should we allow security procedures to become so bothersome that we forgo the pleasures of everyday life?

As much as the terrorist attack in Boston is a test of our humanity, our resolve and, yes, our safety, it is also a test of our principles as nation. The reality of our world is that terrorist attacks will occur; no matter how large the government grows or how many rights the state tramples in an attempt to prevent them.

While we should work to prevent acts of terror, we should work harder still to ensure that our own freedoms are preserved and our Constitution is protected. As Americans, we must recognize there is greater value in being the freest people in the world than the safest.

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gjuster said...

Drew - You will take the wrath of many who will call you cold and callous, not caring about Americans dying at home because their safety compromised our bill of rights. Politicians will definitely "do something" to show they care, and that something will be less freedoms. The Patriot Act seems like a good idea, until you get caught up in it like a friend of mine did. It is difficult to know what is effective and what constitutes a severe violation of our rights. We can not trade liberty for security.

April 17, 2013 at 6:56 a.m.
timbo said...

timbo....Drew, good job trying to be the voice of reason. We are now seeing the results of the weeniefication of America. It parallels the feminization of America.

My life is based on relative risk. According to that, we should all be terrified to get in a car because that is our greatest risk of death. One terrorist bombing since 9/11 is so rare as to be insignificant. It is just an excuse to control us even more.

FINALLY SOMEONE AT THE TFP THAT GETS IT RIGHT...pardon the pun.

April 17, 2013 at 9:37 a.m.
Leaf said...

Agreed, for once.

April 17, 2013 at 2:44 p.m.
inquiringmind said...

Those who are willing to give up freedom for security deserve neither

April 17, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.
ORRMEANSLIGHT said...

Proposed Legislation to ban pressure cookers will fail

American Citizens who have seen Democratic governments abroad fail overnight know it could also happen here. When tyranny gains power Democracies fall to dictatorships. The Second Amendment to our United States Constitution addressed this atrocity that has happened in modern times.

American Citizens will not stand by helplessly. We will not allow our Mom's, Daughter's, Niece's, female friend's pressure cookers to be banned by the Liberal Left Democrats! They will never take our pressure cookers, never!

kwo

April 17, 2013 at 9:39 p.m.
Easy123 said...

You're truly a moron, Ken Orr.

April 17, 2013 at 10:47 p.m.
Hunter_Bluff said...

Easy, Your use of the term moron to describe Orr.... demeans the definition of the word.

April 18, 2013 at 2:06 a.m.
Rickaroo said...

In order to ensure our "safety" and fight the good fight against "global terrorism" Bush also sanctioned torture and took us into a senseless war with Iraq. I don't recall the editor of the TFP at the time ever raising a stink about that. But then, we all know that the freedom of dark-skinned middle-eastern people is not nearly as precious as our own, is it? It's perfectly all right to impose our will upon them and squash them like the filthy insects they are, especially in the name of protecting the freedoms of us God-blessed, privileged Americans.

April 18, 2013 at 10:08 a.m.
gjuster said...

Rickaroo -

The editor at the time was not very good - as opposed to Drew, who has been spot on and unafraid more often than not. As for freedom for dark skinned people, seems to me America has done good and bad for all skin colors - its more about what you have for us (oil, trade, strategic resources) that the color of your skin. Agree - get us out of Iraq and Afganistan

April 18, 2013 at 11:44 a.m.
ORRMEANSLIGHT said...

Question: To our beloved Democratic Libs:

How many steam escape valves are necessary to make a pressure cooker qualify for the category of an assault weapon? Or, better put: An Assault Pressure Cooker. That being, of course, dear Demo Libs, as opposed to 'non-assault category' pressure cookers. Let me see now, where do Molotov Cocktails fit in here? They do horrendous damage in movie theaters and other closed-in places. On, i forgot, it's only our guns that you Socialistic Dem Libs want, or, maybe it the entire Second Amendment to our United States Constitution that you want banned, instead of, of course, just the pressure cookers. kwo

April 18, 2013 at 8:19 p.m.
Easy123 said...

You're truly a moron, Ken Orr.

April 18, 2013 at 8:37 p.m.
ORRMEANSLIGHT said...

Easy123,

If You said that with a humanitarian love, then i will reconsider how I processed Your statement. You're alright with me, Easy. +(:>%[@=;

kwo

April 18, 2013 at 9:18 p.m.
Easy123 said...

Again, you're too stupid to insult, Ken Orr.

April 18, 2013 at 9:22 p.m.
fairmon said...

"Give me liberty or give me death" is no longer the prevailing attitude of America, it appears to be "I need a nanny and the government is it".

April 19, 2013 at 6:43 a.m.
fairmon said...

"Give me liberty or give me death" is no longer the prevailing attitude of America, it appears to be "I need a nanny and the government is it".

April 19, 2013 at 6:43 a.m.
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