Judge Napolitano asked the question: “What if the rights and principles guaranteed in the constitution have been so distorted in the past 200 years as to be unrecognizable by the founders?”
We don’t have room here to write a book, and that’s what it would take to thoroughly reply to the question, so we’ll limit ourselves to easy targets; The Bill of Rights vs. The USA PATRIOT Act. It’s a no-brainer. We’ve talked about the PATRIOT Act before. It is perhaps the single most worst thing to happen to the Bill of Rights since Lincoln’s War.
1A: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Patriot Act: Section 215 blows these rights out of the water. The FBI (or any government “agency”) can, without even a shred of evidence of wrong-doing, spy on, bug, and infiltrate any religious or political organization. Goodbye “the free exercise thereof”. So long “freedom of speech”. And, if you decide to get together with others “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”, expect to have Big Brother watching, closely. But wait, you say? They would only do such a thing to protect us from terrorists. They would only bug or watch organizations with known terrorist ties. They would never bug the Baptist Church on Main Street in my town. But don’t you see? There is nothing to stop them from doing just that. All under the guise of protecting us from terrorists.
2A: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
Patriot Act: Well, okay, guns and gun owners are not specifically mentioned in the Act. It’s not like they even needed to, with all the other power they’ve grabbed. They can squash militias or gun shops, or anything they want. Let’s imagine that you’re a gun club owner or member, or own a firing range, or are a firearms retailer, and you make any kind of right wing comment on Facebook. It will take exactly zero point four seconds before you find yourself on some alphabet agency’s watch list. Doesn’t that just give you a warm fuzzy feeling? And if you’re part of a militia? The Act’s expansion of the definition of terrorism lets the Feds include just about anything they want to under that umbrella.
3A: “No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
Patriot Act: The 3A is one of the few rights that gets a pass here. Unless you count commandeering your house so they can spy on your neighbor. They can do that now.
4A: “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.”
Patriot Act: I cannot even begin to tell you how totally canceled this is. The Feds, under the Act, can go where they want, snatch what they want – including YOU – any time they want. If they think they might need a warrant to help cover their asses later, they’ve got a pool of anonymous tame judges who’ll give them any paper they want, any time they want. They can grab you out of your bed, take you to a secret location and keep you as long as they want. No phone calls, no lawyer, no habeas corpus, no trial. They can tap your phone, read your mail, sneak into your house and search it without you even knowing it. Oh, and did I mention this popular idea they’ve got that walking around with too much cash makes you a potential terrorist, so they can just take it? Yeah. Civil Forfeiture, they call it. Seriously. Go to the bank, draw out two or three grand, get in your car and head to Vegas: but don’t count on getting there. They can stop you, take the cash, take your car, and leave you standing by the side of the road if they want to. Because you’re suspicious.
5A: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Patriot Act: See above, re: 4A. Add; and if they don’t get an indictment or a conviction the first time, they can keep working at it until they do.
6A: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
Patriot Act: Again, go back and read the part about 4A. They can snatch you, lock you up forever if they want to. No communication, no lawyer, no trial, no confronting your accusers. You just disappear.
7A: In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Patriot Act: I don’t know. Somehow the Feds missed this one. Maybe it’s the “common law” thing. And twenty bucks? Who cares about $20 these days? When the Constitution was written, $20 was a month’s wages for a laborer. The Feds spend more than that for pizza delivery while they’re staking out your house, listening to their bugs, waiting for you to cuss out Obama while you watch Fox News.
8A: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Patriot Act: Hmmph. I think maybe “held without bail” qualifies as “excessive”. Stealing the money out of your bank account because it’s “suspicious” might be called an “excessive fine”. Locking you up forever without a trial is kind of “cruel” – too bad it’s not unusual any more.
9A: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Patriot Act: Don’t make me laugh.
10A: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Patriot Act: I don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted. My snark bucket is empty. I’m floating in a pool of bitter irony. I can’t even process it.
Do you think the Founders would recognize things today? I think they are rolling over in their graves, trying to find their muskets.
It is the responsibility of the patriot to protect his country from its government. – Thomas Paine