Monday, January 01, 2007

One step forward, ten steps back

Slate published The Bill of Wrongs this past weekend. The author, Dahlia Lithwick, bills it as "the ten most outrageous civil liberties violations of 2006." It seems unbelievable that some of the items on the list could actually occur in the USA but they really did, and the details about them that Lithwick provides are accurate. Written in reverse order in the article, the list includes:
  1. Hubris
  2. The Military Commissions Act of 2006
  3. Abuse of Jose Padilla
  4. Extraordinary Rendition
  5. Government Snooping
  6. The State-Secrets Doctrine
  7. Slagging the Courts
  8. Slagging the Media
  9. Guantanamo Bay
  10. Attempt to Get Death Penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui
One major loss of civil liberty did not make the list. The USA PATRIOT Act was renewed this year. Perhaps Lithwick did not include it because the Act has been in effect for a few years now. Nonetheless, some of the sections of the Act that constituted the greatest intrusions into our privacy were scheduled to expire at the end of 2006, but congress canceled those expirations. The right to privacy is now lost forever to the American people.

It was a pleasant relief to finally see another civil liberty that has been violated in recent years also not make the list this time. It was beginning to look like Americans were losing their liberty to freely elect their president. After the fiasco of an election in 2000 and the highly questionable activities in many polling locations in the 2004 election, the manufacturers of electronic voting machines and voting officials began deciding the results of our elections. The rule of thumb is that once you lose a civil liberty, you will never get it back. However, the 2006 election showed us that is not always the case, when the American people were again free to decide an election -- and did so in no uncertain terms.

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