Next week we kick off our College Civil Liberties tour! We start Monday at Columbia University in New York City, then Indiana and Purdue universities on Tuesday, then Middle Tennessee State University on Wednesday, and wrapping up at Ohio State University on Thursday.
The theme of the programs is: “The War on Terrorism, the Constitution, and Civil Liberties.”
The Young Americans for Liberty are organizing the event on each of the campuses.
The three panelists are Glenn Greenwald, Bruce Fein, and me. The panels will be moderated by Jack Hunter.
What’s unique about this program is that it brings together three speakers of different political philosophies, all of whom have the same fierce dedication to civil liberties. In fact, Greenwald and Fein are two of my personal heroes in life. Both of them have been absolutely steadfast in the defense of civil liberties under both the Bush administration and the Obama administration. Every day, I make it a point to read Greenwald’s blog at Salon.com, and every day I search Google News for a new article by Bruce Fein.
Forbes magazine named Greenwald one of the 25 most influential liberals in the country. Fein served in the Justice Department during the Reagan administration. I’m the libertarian on the panel. All three of us are lawyers. Hunter writes for American Conservative magazine. The Young Americans for Liberty is predominantly libertarian.
So, the dynamics of these panels are certain to be interesting and exciting, especially since the audience will most likely consist of liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and people who don’t have a particular political philosophy.
Most important is the topic — the war on terrorism, the Constitution, and civil liberties.
As most everyone knows, we now live in a country in which the government, albeit democratically elected, is wielding totalitarian powers, under the guise of the “war on terrorism” and “national security.”
The military and the CIA now wield the power to take anyone in the world, including Americans, into custody as suspected terrorists, incarcerate them for life in a concentration camp or prison without due process of law, torture them, and even execute them. The government also now wields the power to simply assassinate people — anyone, including Americans, who it labels a suspected terrorist.
Just recently, a federal court of appeals denied the appeal of Jose Padilla, who is suing the federal government for what they did to him. Notwithstanding the fact that the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments expressly prohibit the federal government from punishing a person without according him certain fundamental procedural protections, U.S. military authorities held Padilla in a military dungeon for some 3 years, torturing him with isolation and sensory deprivation with the intent of causing him permanent mental damage, and claiming the authority to continue doing so for the rest of his life.
The government’s rational for circumventing the Bill of Rights? The war on terrorism and national security.
What’s significant about the Padilla case is not just what they did to him but also the fact that what they did to him, they can now do to every American. That is a critically important aspect of the court of appeals’ denial of relief to Padilla. We now live in a country in which the president can send the military to seize Americans, cart them away to a military dungeon, and torture them, as they did with Padilla.
As most everyone knows, such power has now been codified into law in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Let’s also not forget the USA PATRIOT Act, which authorizes the government to engage in warrantless searches of people’s homes and businesses and permits the government to secretly monitor the activities of the American people. Let’s also not forget the secretive telecom schemes that permitted the government to illegally acquire communications records of the American people — and the immunity granted by Congress for violations of criminal and civil law relating to such schemes.
This is obviously not the type of government that our American ancestors had in mind when they called the federal government into existence with the Constitution. This is an aberrant, dysfunctional government wielding and exercising the same types of powers held by totalitarian regimes.
They tell us that it’s all necessary to keep us safe. Nonsense! For one thing, it’s the U.S. government’s foreign policy that has generated the anger and hatred that manifests itself in terrorist retaliation. For another, history has shown us that when people trade their freedom for the pretense of security, they lose both their freedom and security.
Can Americans restore civil liberties to our land? Can the government be made to abandon even the pretense of wielding these totalitarian powers? Can we restore a limited-government, constitutional republic to the United States?
Absolutely! Nothing is set in stone. When a critical mass of Americans demand freedom, freedom will be restored to our land.
That’s where the power of ideas comes into play. Ideas on liberty matter. They influence people. They motivate people to act.
That’s what our College Civil Liberties Tour is all about — to raise awareness of the type of dysfunctional government under which we now live and how unnecessary, dangerous, and destructive it is — and to share with people the vital importance of restoring civil liberties to our land before things get any worse.
The programs are open to the public and are free of charge. If you are in the area, I hope you will join us and bring your friends. I am sure you will find it to be an intellectually enjoyable and important evening.