Thursday, May 2, 2013

Martial Law Comes to America?


From Family Security Matters.



Martial Law Comes to America?

Given the grim casualty figures - some 280 wounded and three dead - of the April 15th Boston Marathon terrorist bombing attacks, it is appropriate that our thoughts are with those most-affected by this cruel atrocity. However, even as we feel compassion for the victims and attempt to help the survivors rebuild their lives, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture and the issues at stake in the aftermath of the attack. The Boston terrorist attacks should trouble every thoughtful American - and not only because of the innocent casualties.

As a massive manhunt to catch the perpetrators of the attack got under way, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick - in cooperation with Mayor Thomas Menino and local, state and federal authorities - imposed an involuntary lockdown upon the city of Boston, home to more than 625,000 people and the metro region of greater Boston, home to 4.5 million people.

As detailed in a story [1] by recently-retired Congressman Ron Paul, M.D., the citizens of the region were subjected to armored vehicles in the streets, heavily-armed paramilitary police, warrantless door-to-door searches, and families forcibly evicted at gunpoint from their homes without probable cause. Businesses were forced to close and regional transportation effectively halted. Electronic road signs over area expressways cautioned motorists to go inside and "shelter in place."

What is "shelter in place," you ask? The short answer is that it is the police state telling you to go inside and remain there until you are given permission to come out. "Shelter in place" is a catchy little euphemism crafted by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to obscure the fact that martial law had just been declared - and that you, dear citizen, had been placed under house arrest.

In due course, suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev died in a shoot-out with police in Watertown, MA, and his brother, Dzhokhar, was wounded and later taken into custody. These two men, both natives of the Chechnya, were the reason d'être and rationale for shutting down an entire city.

In short order, Governor Patrick and other statists were bragging about the effectiveness of "shelter in place" - only to proven emphatically wrong. Those formations of heavily-armed shock troops were not responsible for locating the suspects. It was after the lock-down was lifted that a private citizen went outside to check his property and discovered the suspect - whereupon he called the police and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was apprehended. It is possible, even highly-likely, that the suspect would have eluded the authorities entirely, if not for the efforts of one private citizen. An ordinary person accomplished what thousands of heavily-armed paramilitaries were unable to do.

As Dr. Paul reminds us, it is not the job of government to keep us safe but to protect our liberties. Once we subscribe to the notion that assuring our safety is the central task of government, we place all of our liberties in grave danger - for then the authorities can and will demand restriction after restriction upon our freedoms in the name of safety. The oft-quoted passage by Benjamin Franklin bears repeating, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty no Safety."

For obvious reasons, the government does not widely advertise its poor performance and lack of success in predicting and preventing terrorist attacks. However, the fact remains that - despite the trillions of dollars in direct and indirect costs spent on domestic and foreign intelligence, counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations - the government has been unable to significantly reduce, let alone eradicate terrorism. The failure of the police state in the Boston manhunt is not an atypical event; it is - in many respects - the status quo for government counter-terrorist efforts. Recall that the CIA, FBI and other domestic/foreign intelligence services were caught flat-footed by the September 11th terrorist attacks - despite having the benefit of the advance warning given in the first World Trade Center Towers attacks in 1993 and much-other intelligence besides. The foregoing is not an indictment of those dedicated and diligent professionals (and there are some) working to protect this nation and its citizens, while remaining within the bounds of the constitution; it is simply an acknowledgement of a painful yet necessary truth about the nature of what we face. Just as local police are powerless to prevent all crimes, the authorities are likewise just as powerless to prevent all acts of terrorism.

There is an apt term for many of the security efforts we see about us, such as those in Boston after the April 15th bombings. Some years ago, computer security expert and author Bruce Schneier coined the term "security theater" in his novel "Beyond Fear" to describe the practice of investing in countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually achieve it. Security Theater serves the ends of government; since terrorism directly challenges (and thereby threatens) the perceived legitimacy of the existing political regime and its leaders, even a pro forma show of force serves to strengthen the often-illusory perception that our leaders are in charge and have the situation under control.

In reality, Security Theater does little to improve our safety and much to erode our rights as free citizens.

If we make the Faustian bargain of trading liberty for safety, we are in effect forging our own chains. Statistically-speaking, one is more likely to die of a bee sting or a lightning strike (to say nothing of a car accident) than by an act of terrorism. The government - federal, state and local - is incapable of stopping these attacks, yet we persist in surrendering our liberties and tax dollars to the authorities in the vain hope that attacks like the one at the Boston Marathon can be prevented. That road ends in only one place - in an all-powerful state in which we are no longer citizens, but subjects ordered about at the whims of our masters. To the extent that safety and security exist in this world, they are found in the exercise of our rights and responsibilities as free citizens. The price of liberty and its benefits is that each of us must assume a degree of risk in an uncertain and sometimes-dangerous world.

A Fox News poll of 619 individuals selected nationally and at random - taken the day after the Boston attacks - asked respondents, "Would you be willing to give up some of your personal freedom in order to reduce the threat of terrorism?" Forty-five percent answered "no," while forty-three percent answered "yes," with the remainder unsure or abstaining. This result represents an inversion of the past polling pattern for this question, which has held since the 9/11 attacks. A similar poll of 588 adults taken on 17-18 April, 2013 by the Washington Post, which asked "Which worries you more - that the government will not go far enough to investigate terrorism because of concerns about constitutional rights, or that it will go too far in compromising constitutional rights in order to investigate terrorism?" Forty-eight percent replied that they were worried that the government will go too-far, versus forty-one percent who believe that the government has not gone far-enough. These polling data seem to confirm that Americans fear terrorism less than they fear the loss of their constitutional rights, and that they have finally begun to notice - and to chafe under - the severe restrictions placed upon their liberties since 2001.

A right unexercised and unused is soon lost. At the very earliest opportunity, please remind your elected representatives and other government officials that reducing or abolishing individual liberties and constitutional rights in the name of safety is utterly unacceptable - and that any official - elected or appointed - who supports such efforts will face the consequences at the ballot box and in court. The declaration of martial law in Boston represents a de facto warning shot - a harbinger of things to come - if lovers of liberty do not arise as one in defense of their age-old rights as free men.


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