As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, many Americans have unfortunately had a casual disregard for infringements on our civil liberties that have occured since that fateful day.
But there are also smaller and creeping threats to civil liberties that have not surfaced, but threaten to radically change basic constitutional protections in America. The Department of Justice recently arrested and indicted Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, for the dangerously vague crime of “providing material support” to a designated terrorist organization. Ahmad uploaded a YouTube video showing Abu Ghraib photos, U.S. Iraqi war footage, and Islamic prayers. For this, he faces more than twenty years in prison.
As columnist Glenn Greenwald points out, “Let's be very clear about the key point: the Constitution – specifically the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment – prohibits the U.S. Government from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the U.S. and its leaders. One can dislike this legal fact. One can wish it were different. But it is the clear and unambiguous law....”
Many Americans may not feel that it is wrong to target Muslims for constitutionally-protected political speech, especially with 9/11 fresh in our memories, but violations of minorities' liberties always set a dangerous precedent for governments to further abuse power in the future. Constitutionally guaranteed rights exist precisely to protect minorities from arbitrary aggression, all the way down to the smallest minority of them all: the individual, whether Muslim, Christian, or atheist.
Ahmad’s case, sadly, is not rare. A recent report by Mother Jones and the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley reveals that nearly every single supposed “terror plot” in the U.S. since 9/11 has been orchestrated by the FBI.
Entrusted with the important goal of protecting our liberty and keeping us safe, government agencies increasingly make a habit of spending tax dollars on entrapment, violating liberty, and inflating threats to guarantee their growing budgets. It is no wonder that the FBI and CIA failed miserably in preventing less than two dozen hijackers from unleashing terror in multiple American cities.
What a decade of post-9/11 policy has shown is not only the failure of a large, centralized state to keep us safe and free, but the dangers it can inflict when it attempts to do so. An empire that polices the world but ignores its borders; using a blunderbuss to handle a problem that needs a scalpel; bleeding trillions of dollars in large-scale military operations just like Osama bin Laden wanted. All of these policies have been counterproductive, extremely costly, have contributed mightily to U.S. economic woes, and have left Americans far less free than before.
Undoubtedly, Americans will continue to deal with terrorism in the future, but given that we are far more likely to die in a car accident, get hit by lightning, or drown in a pool than be the victim of a terrorist attack, is a vast security state necessary?
Besides, terrorism is a predictable response to an interventionist and imperial foreign policy. Focusing on good police work and a defensive foreign policy, not swatting at beehives through aggressive military force, is the best way to combat terrorism.
For those that value political and economic liberty, infringing on anyone’s rights is an attack on everyone’s rights. In the age-old bargain of sacrificing liberty for security, it appears that post 9/11 America has tragically but predictably achieved neither.
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