Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Police State: No to Protection, Yes to Suppression

By Douglas V. Gibbs

The United States Supreme Court has ruled a number of times that law enforcement cannot protect you.  They are there to take a report after a crime is committed.  Reality suggests that the police are unable to protect you without compromising your freedom as an individual.  To "anticipate" crime and arrest based on a condition of anticipation, before any crime is actually committed, would be to dwell in the realm of Orwellian government where thought crime reigns.  Nonetheless, pre-crime suppression has been trying to rear its ugly head, through crime assessment technology, and hate-speech laws.

The reality is that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.  While government seeks to disarm the public, they are also trying to change the minutes into seconds, by intruding into the details of our lives.

Government attempting to curb the speech, or "prevent sedition," is nothing new.  Under John Adams, and again under Woodrow Wilson, unconstitutional Sedition Laws were passed and put into effect.  Under John Adams, it became a crime to be critical of the government.  The four "Alien and Sedition Acts" were claimed to be necessary because of what was thought to be an impending war with France.  The Federalist Party was the "Big Government" party of the two primary political parties in existence at the time.  Thomas Jefferson led the opposition.  The "Jeffersonians," or "Republicans," who were official known as the "Democratic-Republican Party," was more in line with the U.S. Constitution.  During the 1830s, Jefferson's party would depart from its republican ideals and move towards demanding a more "democratic" government.  During the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the party official changed its name to the Democratic Party, a move that would eventually lead the Democrats to abandon the Constitution, and seek the communal theories of collectivism.

During the Adams Presidency, in order to better enforce the Alien and Sedition Acts, Secretary of State Timothy Pickering began to scrutinize Republican newspapers, and it didn't take long for Pickering to locate a violator.  Matthew Lyon, a Vermont Republican Congressman, was put on trial for publicly opposing going to war against France, and objecting to the land tax the Federalists were imposing as a way to pay for war preparations.  In October of 1798 he became the first person to be put on trial under the Sedition Act.

Lyon's "criminal letter" to a Republican newspaper accused President Adams of seeking "a continued grasp for power."  He also voiced criticisms often at public meetings.  He was found guilty of "intentionally stirring up hatred against President Adams." Lyon defended himself, without representation, due to his lack of affordability to hire an attorney.  The U.S. marshal, a Federalist appointee, assembled a jury from Vermont towns that were Federalist strongholds, to stack the deck against Lyon.

Lyon argued that he was only expressing his political opinions, but according to the court the burden of proof was on Lyon to prove that what he said was true.  The jury found Lyon guilty of expressing seditious words with "bad intent." The judge, also a Federalist, sentenced him to four months in jail, a $1,000 fine, and court costs.  Lyon ran for re-election to Congress from his jail cell and won. Vermont supporters petitioned President Adams to release and pardon him, but Adams refused.

While he was still in jail (a term that exceeded what the law called for), the Federalists tried to expel Lyon from Congress as a convicted criminal, but the effort failed.  Lyon returned to Congress just in time to cast the vote that broke the tie in the 1800 Presidential Election, granting Thomas Jefferson victory over John Adams.

Thirteen more indictments were brought under the Sedition Act, mostly against editors and publishers of Republican newspapers. Some Republican newspapers were forced to close down, and many others were too intimidated to criticize the government.

James Madison argued that the Sedition Act attacked the "right of freely examining public characters and measures, and of free communication among the people." According to Madison, who was one of the two men that put together the Bill of Rights, the freedom of speech and freedom of the press exist for the express purpose of protecting political and religious speech.  Nonetheless, the statists of the Federalist Party called the sedition law "wise and necessary" to defend against secret attacks by foreign or domestic enemies.

As Jefferson was elected President in 1800, the Republicans won a majority in both houses of Congress.  In his inaugural address Jefferson confirmed the new definition of free speech and press as the right of Americans "to think freely and to speak and write what they think."  The Federalist Party never secured the White House again, and as their statist ideas continued to lose popularity, by the 1820s the party faded into obscurity, becoming nothing more than a footnote in the History of the United States.

War was once again the excuse when the tyranny of a sedition act appeared again.  This time, it was in 1918, under President Woodrow Wilson.

The 1918 Sedition Act was coupled with the Espionage Act from a year earlier, making it a crime to convey information intended to interfere with the U.S. armed forces’ prosecution of the war effort or to promote the success of the country’s enemies.  Seems innocent enough on the surface.  However, it began to bite into Freedom of Speech, imposing harsh penalties for making false statements that the government defined as interfering with the prosecution of the war; insulting or abusing the U.S. government, the flag, the Constitution or the military; agitating against the production of necessary war materials; or advocating, teaching or defending any of these acts. Those who were found guilty of such actions, the act stated, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than twenty years, or both. This was the same penalty that had been imposed for acts of espionage in the earlier legislation.

While Wilson's administration and Congress felt it was necessary to pass these acts, legal minds of the day were critical of the legislation, considering the Sedition Act to be contrary to the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution.

A fine line exists between necessity for the protection of the country, and the violation of our rights, and often that line exists in connection to the allowance of government to define the terms.  While, in our current society, concern over the Islamic jihad being committed in the United States is a very real concern.  Legislation or regulatory actions designed to protect Americans against the imminent threat become tyrannical if the definitions by the federal government include various groups of Americans as being domestic threats.  Those definitions in today's political environment includes military veterans, Tea Party members, constitutionalists, and any other political opposition to the ideology of the political party in power. While raiding a mosque may be seen as a necessary activity to prevent terrorism, at what point does the raiding of other groups, churches, and political meetings become tyrannical?

New methods in law enforcement are being devised to better determine the threat score of individuals, and entities.  The method includes a more extensive surveillance of citizens.

Police are consulting software to calculate a person's potential for violence, based on history, and other criteria.  The computer investigation includes searching through arrest reports, property records, commercial databases, deep Web searches and a person’s social-media postings.  From this information, the system calculates a person's threat level and where it appears on a list of three color-coded scores.

The potential of tyranny lies in the details, and definitions.  At what point does being a law-abiding gun owner become a negative score?  What about involvement in Tea Party groups, or registering as a Republican?  Despite the perceived need for peace and safety, at what point does using technology to peer into the lives of citizens become an intrusive sign of tyranny, and an Orwellian Society where every member of the population is considered to be a potential threat to the government until proven innocent?

The tools available may be critical in helping law enforcement identify terrorists, thwart terrorist attacks, and keep personnel and citizens safe.  Recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino may be great examples regarding how the system of seeking a threat score may be helpful in ascertaining the information necessary to determine if police need to move on a situation that may be a potential terrorist attack.  The need for such measures does exist.  But, where is that fine line between protection, and intrusion?

The problem is that these new technologies are being launched with little public oversight and have a great potential for abuse or error.  While these methods may seem necessary to protect the public, the administration of these methods may not be properly guarded by trusted personnel.  New investigative technology may be seen as a potential weapon that could be used against the public at large and persons or political ideologies that oppose those in power.  Power-brokers in government potentially may be seeking an agenda designed to not necessarily protect the public as much as it is designed to enslave the public.

While police swarm the citizenry in privacy, sweeping them for information with cameras and listening devices, and an intrusion into the private data in mobile devices, the 4th Amendment comes to mind, where our right to be safe from illegal searches and seizure is expressly enumerated.

The technology first emerged as a tool for the military to use on the battlefield, but now it is making its way into domestic law enforcement.  The technology is less taxing on budgets, and more efficient than any and all methods currently in use.  Why wouldn't domestic law enforcement begin using these methods?  And with each passing day the arsenal of high-tech tools is increasing, as your privacy is decreasing, in the name of keeping you safe.

So, the question that arises is simple.  How much are you willing to pay for peace and safety?  How many freedoms are you willing to relinquish?  At what point does the tools betray our freedoms, and pose as an imminent danger, not only to the enemies of liberty, but to those seeking to live peacefully in a system of liberty, without a potentially tyrannical government paying attention to their every activity?  At what point will simply verbalizing your beliefs become a criminal offense?

That day is closer than most people realize.

The line between liberty and tyranny is a fine one, with the definitions of peace, safety, and terrorism resting in the hands of statists in the federal government who seek to expand the size and scope of government, in the name of protection.

How far away are we from instituting Sedition Laws again, where a mere word against the government, or governmentally-defined protected groups, can lead to fines and imprisonment?

As the presence of Islam in our society increases, signalling the likelihood of increased terrorist attacks on our soil, the government who swears they will protect us from terrorist activities have decided that Islam is a protected group, and are assisting the Muslims in installing sharia into the American System. In the House of Representatives, H.R.569 has been proposed, condemning violence, bigotry, and hateful rhetoric towards Muslims in the United States.

At what point in history did these people come to the conclusion that failing to give aid and comfort to the enemy should be a criminal offense?

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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