Monday, June 20, 2016

After Shooting Up Pulse - The Real Frame Job

In the wake of the Orlando Pulse Club shooting, the hottest debate in Washington these days is about keeping guns out of the hands of suspected terrorists.

Like so many of the moves by the anti-constitutional elements of the left, a bad idea is put inside a pretty inarguably "good" wrapper.  The left is consistently more adept at framing really bad ideas in good frames, and this is another example of just that.

After all, who wants to be labeled as someone who said it is ok to let suspected terrorists on US soil buy guns and ammo?  The whole thing is just chock full of potential sound bites the opposition can use to sink any politician who uses this frame to discuss the issue.

What is so bad about the idea of keeping guns and ammo out of the hands of suspected terrorists?

The wrongness of this idea begins to come clear when you examine the key phrase in this idea, "suspected terrorists."

First, let's talk about the word "suspected."

US criminal law is founded on the premise that a person is considered innocent until proven guilty.  This means that simply because you are suspected of a crime, doesn't mean they can throw you in jail for it.  The justice system requires evidence, and the evidence has to meet certain standards to be sufficient to justify an arrest warrant.  And it needs to meet even higher standards to get a conviction in a court of law.

Most of the activities our clandestine services such as the CIA and NSA use to gather information on terrorists are not designed nor intended to be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions.  So, wire taps, spy cams, moles, bugs, etc., all or most of which require a judge to issue a warrant in the US can be used on foreign nationals regardless of whether or not the information on hand is substantial enough to withstand a judicial review.

Our clandestine services aren't cops, they are spies.  They aren't looking to arrest and convict the bad guys.  They are looking to keep them from doing bad things.  Yes, "keep them from doing bad things" often means to kill them.  That is real life in the world of spies.  To get found out can easily be a death sentence.

For US citizens, and on US soil, the intelligence community usually has to provide sufficient evidence to a judge to get a warrant for things like wire taps, bugs, and other forms of surveillance.

Mateen, although his parents were foreign born, was a US Citizen.  That means he was not a foreign national on US soil, like the 9/11 bombers were.  As a US Citizen, he is accorded all the rights of any other US Citizen.  So, until there was sufficient evidence for an arrest warrant, and a conviction, it is a dangerous thing for all of us to breach his constitutional rights.  It is in fact, a very slippery slope.

What does it mean if a US Citizen is "suspected" of being a terrorist?

At its lowest common denominator it means that some faceless government apparatchik decided to add your name to a list of "suspected terrorists."  The process this apparatchik goes through to add you to this list could be rigorous, or it could just be because his/her boss said so.  Either way, we won't know what the process is, because it is done in secret.

And, because it is done in secret, there is no way to know what level of evidence was used, if any, to decide that your name should be on the list.

It could be because you once served in the US Military and the apparatchik (or her bosses - all the way up to the POTUS), decides that former members of the US military are dangerous to our government and our people.  Presto! Your status as a veteran has landed you on the suspected terrorist list and you can no longer buy guns and ammo.

It might be because some apparatchik, or the POTUS, decides that "all paramilitary organizations" in the US are threats and all members of those organizations are suspected terrorists.  Presto, all The Boy Scouts and their leaders are now "suspected terrorists" and they cannot buy guns or ammo.  Yes, The Boy Scouts of America are categorized, at least by the former USSR, as a paramilitary organization.

But, don't just take my word for it.  Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

"Organizations that have been described as paramilitary are as diverse as the Minutemen, youth groups (from scouting to the Pioneer movement), and even military-themed boarding schools."

It could be you wrote a blog post that seriously angered the apparatchik.  And so s/he slipped your name on the list of suspected terrorists in order to intimidate you into silence.

Or, perhaps you made it onto the same list that the Administration of Barak Obama gave to the IRS as charitable organizations that should be investigated for denial of their legal status.  That list included Tea Parties of various flavors, along with their members, and a list of sundry other groups that were vocal critics of the Obama Administration.

In any of these scenarios, the key elements supporting the denial of a citizen of their constitutional rights are:
  1. Lack of transparency on the process
  2. Lack of legal due process
  3. Opportunity for abuse through administrative diktat
And, once your constitutional rights have been denied in secret, without your knowledge or your ability to face your accusers in court, what recourse do you have?

You can, after you discover why you cannot buy any guns or ammo, or cannot buy a plane ticket, you can petition some faceless government committee to have them reinstate your constitutional rights at their whim, because you believe it is a mistake that you were labeled a "suspected terrorist."

And no, they won't tell you who decided to put you on the list or why. So, your ability to refute the assertion is limited and you have no way to seek recourse against some apparatchik who may be using the power of the bureaucracy to further a personal grudge against you.

Why stop at denying guns and ammo?
And while we are at it, denying constitutional rights to US citizens who are "suspected terrorists", why stop at the 2nd amendment?

Since this is such an important issue, how about let's toss out their "Miranda" rights and their rights against self incrimination (the 5th amendment).  We can waterboard, beat, and otherwise torture these US citizens all day long until they admit that they are actual terrorists, not just "suspected terrorists."

The simple fact is that if the government can deny a US Citizen of one constitutional right because of their being a "suspect", there is no reason stopping the government from denying a US Citizen of ALL their constitutional rights.

This is why Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governer, 11 November 1755, Benjamin Franklin,

When you trade you liberty for security, you get neither, because you turn yourself into a subject of the government, keeping only the rights the government bureaucrats and potentates decide that you merit or need.

I call on our elected representatives and all citizens to think this through clearly and calmly and not allow themselves to be stampeded into bad legislation simply because it is well framed by those whose objective is to rule over us, whether we want them to or not.

Our freedoms were purchased with the blood of both patriots and tyrants.  To lose those freedoms out of fear and lazy thinking is an insult to those who risked their all to win it for us.  I pray that we are not put into a situation where we have to buy it all back again at the cost and risk which our Founding Fathers bore in the first place.

Tom Sheppard is a business consultant and coach to small business owners and individuals. He is a recognized author with dozens of titles in business and fiction to his credit. One of his endeavors is to help those who want to see their own book in print. He does this through his trademarked Book Whispering Process (TM).

The author is not an official spokesperson for any organization or person mentioned herein.

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