Take a look at this excerpt from a New York Times article from a couple of days ago:
All over France, from Toulouse in the south to Paris and beyond, the police have been breaking down doors, conducting searches without warrants, aggressively questioning residents, hauling suspects to police stations and putting others under house arrest.
The extraordinary steps are now perfectly legal under the state of emergency decreed by the government after the attacks on Nov. 13 in Paris that left 130 dead — a rare kind of mobilization that will continue. The French Parliament voted last week to extend the emergency for three more months, which means more warrantless searches, more interrogations, more people placed under house arrest.
Now read the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Guess who the American people were addressing when they enacted that amendment. They were addressing officials of the U.S. government. By enacting the amendment, our American ancestors were essentially telling federal officials: “Don’t even think about doing what European government have always done to their citizens. We are hereby making it clear that you lack the power to do that.”
Why did our American ancestors enact the Fourth Amendment? Because they knew that governments everywhere attract the same type of people — those who mean well as they smash down people’s doors with the aim of keeping people in society “safe and secure,” including from enemies that government policies produce. By enacting the amendment, our American ancestors were striving to protect American society from those types of people within the federal government.
Notice something important about how that amendment was constructed: There are no exceptions provided in it. That is, the amendment doesn’t say: “unless there is a war or a crisis, in which case the provisions of this amendment are suspended until the end of the war or the crisis.”
Why wasn’t that sort of exception included in the amendment? For a very simple reason: Because our American ancestors understood that it’s during wars and crises when these types of federal officials are going to be the most eager to keep people “safe” by bashing down their doors in search of “the enemy.” Our ancestors clearly understood that it is during wars, emergencies, and crises that people are in the greatest danger of losing their liberty at the hands of their own government officials.
And never forget: It’s the concept of liberty that motivated our American ancestors to enact the Fourth Amendment (and the Fifth, Sixth, Eight, and other amendments in the Bill of Rights). They understood that a free society is one in which government officials are absolutely prohibited from bashing down people’s doors without judicially issued warrants.
How did our American ancestors arrive at this understanding? Because they had experienced the phenomenon first hand by their own government officials — when they were citizens of Great Britain. They also knew that this sort of conduct had characterized European countries throughout history.
Look at these words by James Madison, the father of the U.S. Constitution:
The means of defence agst. foreign danger, have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.
There are two critical points in Madison’s words: One, that European regimes have long enslaved their citizenry under the pretext of defending them from foreign dangers. Two, that European regimes oftentimes incite the very danger that is then used as the excuse for assuming “temporary” dictatorial powers to keep people “safe” from the dangers the government has produced. That certainly is what’s going on in France, where terrorists are retaliating for the French government’s interventionist bombing campaign in Syria.
It’s not only the French who engage in this sort of thing. What the French are doing is a mirror image of what German officials did with the Enabling Act after the terrorist attack on the Germany Reichstag in the 1930s.
Do you see now why our American ancestors were so leery about bringing the federal government into existence when the Constitution was being proposed to them? They were concerned that it would become a giant militarist monstrosity, one that would end up inciting dangers that it would then use as the excuse for suspending, “temporarily” of course, the rights and liberties of the American people.
Even when our ancestors accepted the deal and permitted the federal government to come into existence, albeit with extremely few, limited, enumerated powers, that still wasn’t good enough for them. They were obviously still extremely concerned. Some today would say that they were overly “paranoid.” They wanted to make certain that federal officials got the point, which is why they expressly prohibited them from depriving them of freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and other such rights and expressly prohibiting them from wielding the power to bashing down people’s doors without a warrant.
Consider all the foreign-policy woes that have afflicted America ever since the 1940s. They all have one common denominator: the national-security state or what President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. If America had never adopted this totalitarian governmental structure, Americans today would not be besieged with ongoing crises of terrorism from the Middle East or anywhere else or be dangerously confronting the possibility of war with Russia. The fear of terrorism and Muslims that now holds so many Americans in its grip is directly rooted in the policies of invasion, occupation, coups, regime-changes, torture, partnerships with dictators, and assassination that the national-security establishment has brought to our country.
And don’t forget what Ike said about this totalitarian apparatus in his Farewell Address: That it is alien to American values, one that poses a grave risk to the liberties and democratic processes of the American people. The Founding Fathers knew what Ike was talking about, which is why they refused to permit enormous standing armies, secret intelligence agencies, and surveillance agencies to be part of America’s governmental structure.
Not surprisingly, the U.S. national-security establishment has used the threats that its own polices have produced to do the same thing that France and other European countries have done throughout history — suspend the rights and liberties of the citizenry in the name of keeping them “safe” from the enemies that the national-security establishment itself has produced. While it’s true that U.S. officials are not yet bashing down people’s doors in search of terrorists or communists, it’s also true that they now wield such totalitarian powers as military arrest of citizens and their indefinite military detention, torture, and assassination, all without due process of law and trial by jury.
The American people need to make a choice, the same choice that people throughout history have made: Do you want to live in a genuinely free society or not? If so, then that requires a rejection of the police-state system of France and a restoration of a limited, government constitutional republic to our land.
That means an institutional change, a change in the form of the federal government. It requires the dismantling, not the reform, of the national-security establishment that President Eisenhower observed was alien to our way of life and that threatened to enslave us in the name of protecting us from the enemies it produces.
That’s the way to achieve a free society. It’s also the way to achieve a peaceful, prosperous, harmonious, and safe society.