It was a bad day for liberty in the US yesterday. It's hard to think of any other single day in American history during which more liberties were dashed. Sadly, Americans have become so calloused to having their freedom eroded away that hardly a peep was heard. Here are the liberties that were lost Thursday.
The USA PATRIOT Act has been eroding liberties for years now. Fortunately, some of the most controversial sections of the Act had a sunset provision to be retired at the end of 2005 (although Congress agreed to extend it a short time for them to consider whether or not to make those sections permanent instead). To prevent this from happening, Senator Feingold (D - Wis.) proposed amendments to the Act. They included an amendment that would set an expiration of provisions regarding National Security Letters in four years. Sadly, the Senate voted 93 to 3 against Feingold's amendment yesterday. This sets up the provisions most intrusive on our liberties to almost certainly be made permanent by Senate vote in the near future.
The abuses of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are well documented. What is not well documented is how people's freedoms are being robbed there. There are nearly 600 detainees who have been held there for about three years without being accused of a crime, permitted a trial, or allowed legal representation. All this in spite of the fact that they have not been proven to have any connection to terrorism. They will be held there indefinitely and there is no intent for the Bush administration to give them their day in court. Some of them are American citizens.
The U.N. is reporting that the United States is violating the basic human rights of the detainees, including a ban on torture, arbitrary detention, and the right to a fair trial. The U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Anna, said that "Sooner or later there will be a need to close Guantanamo and it will be up to the government to decide and hopefully to do it as soon as possible." True to form, the Bush administration dismisses the report and yesterday refused to close its prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. It proves it has no qualms about perpetuating the eradication of basic liberties in the name of its losing war on terrorism.
The latest news about the abuse of Americans' freedom is the president's program to spy on private phone conversations with American citizens on domestic soil without a warrant. The more news that is released, the more is learned about the lengths to which our basic right to privacy derived from the fourth amendment of the Bill of Rights is violated. Not the slightest deterred, the administration vows to continue this program, even with opponents on both the left and the right. Unfortunately, the Senate has joined the ranks of invertebrates. Yesterday, they voted to stop the hearings into laws broken in the past so they could look at changing the law in the future instead (as if that would somehow make past illegal activity okay).
This sudden rash of freedom-robbing activity yesterday is unprecedented. Even with the slow erosion of liberty under the Bush administration for the past few years, this latest news shows that America's liberties have reached a new low.