This Week’s Mtg: Civil Liberties Since 9-11

Surprisingly, this will be our first ever discussion of this topic – more than 10 years after 9/11.  During that decade, civil liberties have been curtailed considerably in the name of the war on terror.  By civil liberties, I mean our Constitutional rights found in the:

  • 4th amendment, which limits the government’s power to obtain information to be used against us;
  • 5th amendment, that guarantees due process for criminal suspects;
  • 6th amendment, that requires a speedy trial and that suspects see the evidence and witnesses being used against them.
  • 8th amendment, which outlaws cruel and unusual punishment.

However, most of these expanded government powers have been little-debated, or at least quickly forgotten once briefly debated.  Why?  Probably because most of the restrictions affected relatively few American citizens because they were mainly targeted at foreign nationals.  Of course, since much of what’s been done was begun in secret and may still be a secret, maybe Americans would object more if they just knew more.  Still,  when abuses have come to light, they have enjoyed broad public support and been ratified by Congress into law (e.g., Patriot Act, Military Commissions Act).

I’m a little under the weather this week, so my research is less thorough than usual.  Fortunately, I did just finish a book on these matters, and I’ll share some of that with you in the usual introduction.  I’ll focus on the expansion of the surveillance state and on the dramatic expansion of warrantless searches that have occurred.  I’ll skip torture, rendition, and Guantanamo, since they are pretty well-known.   I think, as jaded as we are, you’ll still be surprised at what’s gone on.




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