Save the fourth

Jan 312006
Authors: Tim Waddingham

Benjamin Franklin once said, "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Patrick Henry once said, "Give me liberty or give me death."

Apparently President Bush disagrees.

As I'm sure many of you have heard by now, President Bush is trying to pass a domestic surveillance program that would effectively eliminate our privacy and our 4th Amendment constitutional right to privacy.

Now before you pass judgment on me as a liberal "nut-job" or some wacko from the far left, try to see things from a different perspective.

By no means am I suggesting that we should allow terrorists to operate and communicate within the United States. In fact, they should not be operating or communicating anywhere on the planet because we should eliminate all terrorists. In our quest to do this, however, do we really need to give today's politicians any more opportunities to abuse their power? There is a very big difference between spying and eavesdropping on suspected terrorists and being able to spy and eavesdrop on the conversations I have with my girlfriend.

As it stands now, the USA Patriot Act allows our government to monitor suspected terrorists. So why create a domestic surveillance program applicable to all U.S. citizens?

Moreover, if we are to use 9/11 as a reason for creating such a system, doesn't it beg the question as to why we will be able to spy on U.S. citizens when none of the 19 hijackers were U.S. citizens? After all, your average American is not Al-Qaeda.

It seems to me that this whole domestic spying program is completely unnecessary when we can already monitor suspected terrorists. This would be an unnecessary power given to an already corrupt administration. As one of my professors once told me, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Sadly, I fear we are transitioning towards the latter.

Another point to bring up is probable cause. If our law enforcement or intelligence agencies had probable cause that someone was a terrorist or posed any kind of legitimate threat, there would be nothing to stop them from getting a search warrant. Why should we give President Bush and his corrupt politics, politicians and friends any more power than they already have?

Is it not enough that Bush appears to have fabricated intelligence to wage a war? Is it not enough that countless politicians from Bush's party and administration are under indictment (i.e. Scooter Libby, Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff, to name a few)? Is it not enough that Bush's buddy and number one financial contributor to his 2000 presidential campaign was Enron scumbag Kenneth Lay?

I understand there are coincidences in life, but I am also not naive. To put it simply, Bush is corrupt and cannot be trusted with any more power than he already has.

Ultimately, the end goal for all of us is to eliminate terrorists and prevent another 9/11. Where we disagree is on how we will accomplish this. I support eavesdropping and spying on terrorists and tracking their whereabouts within America. However, I also understand that spying on terrorists in America and being able to spy on any average U.S. citizen are two completely different things. In fact, spying on U.S. citizens is an overt violation of our fourth amendment rights. And I always thought it was the Republican Party that wanted to preserve the Constitution.

The point is that we all want to be safe and we all want to eliminate the terrorists. Do we really need to give up the liberty and privacy that our country is known for in order to do so?

By drastically changing our way of life and allowing our constitution to be violated, wouldn't that mean the terrorists are getting what they want? Doesn't it seem a bit excessive to give the government the power and authority to spy on anyone they please? Among other things, this domestic spying program would make things like Watergate legal. Is this what we want for America? Is this what Ben Franklin would have wanted?

Capturing terrorists is possible without giving the government the power to spy on everyone. If we alter our democracy and freedom in order to defeat the terrorists, then we've already lost.

Tim Waddingham is a senior, double-majoring in political science and speech communication. His column runs every Wednesday in the Collegian.

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