By Clinton Gill
Glade Sun editor
So far in this series on the United States Constitution, I've made it up to the Fifth Amendment. The recent attack in Boston highlights the importance of the protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. In my last columns, I talked about being Mirandized and due process of law, both of which are current topics being discussed in the news.
Shortly after Suspect #2 was arrested, reporters began asking why he had not been read his "Miranda rights." First of all, it should again be noted that there is no such thing as "Miranda rights;" your rights are already guaranteed by the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Further, issuing the Miranda warning is only relevant when the prosecution uses that evidence against the accused in a court of law. The purpose of the Miranda rule is to keep the government from obtaining a confession through force, coercion or deception. When the prosecution has enough evidence to convict the accused without using any of their statements, it doesn't matter whether or not they know they have the right to remain silent. For Suspect #2 that point is somewhat moot since the idiot can't speak due to a botched suicide attempt.
In the case of the Boston Bombers, the prosecution has more than enough evidence to convict the accused, and the right to remain silent could prove to be detrimental to public safety. At the time of arrest, it was unknown if the suspects were working alone or if they had any knowledge of plans for future attacks, details of which are still emerging. For this reason, top Republicans have suggested that the accused be treated as an enemy combatant. Under this designation, the accused would not have the same rights of a citizen.
The Fifth Amendment already provides a relevant exception to the rights described therein:
"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger." The public safety exemption can be invoked when “police officers confronting situations that create a danger to themselves or others may ask questions designed to neutralize the threat without first providing a warning of rights.”
Since Sept.11, 2001, our nation has come to understand the dangers of the world we live in. We are fortunate in that we are sheltered from the reality that people in other countries live with everyday – evil exists. However, in response to these acts of evil, we have lost sight of ourselves. As Americans, we used to believe that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Moreover, for the past few months, we've heard from civil libertarians how our rights come from God, not from a piece of parchment. In other words, the Constitution does not grant us rights, it merely guarantees them. However, when it comes to "national defense," many of these same voices can be heard supporting the suspension of rights. Additionally, the same voices will suggest that the rights defined in the Constitution only apply to American citizens. In my research, I have yet to find where the Founding Fathers suggested that our rights require membership status. In this specific case, we should note the language in the Fifth Amendment does not state "no citizen," rather it says "no person."
Now, let me be as clear as possible, I have no sympathy for those who attack Americans. On the contrary, I have actually put my convictions to the test, fighting our enemies overseas. I've even had the unique experience of being blown up – twice, as a matter of fact. I understand that the world is much more dangerous than it was 200 years ago. The point I'm trying to make is that setting aside these protections sets a very dangerous precedence for future generations of Americans.
Section 1021 under the newly reauthorized National Defense Authorization Act demonstrates this point. Under subsection (c)(1), "Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force." Under the broad definition of the "War on Terror," that means people can be detained indefinitely. Subsection (b)(2) vaguely defines who is covered under this provision as "A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces." Essentially, this section of the law allows American citizens to be detained indefinitely, without trial, with nothing more than accusations. That puts an extraordinary amount of trust into a government that continually proves unworthy of such. In our pursuits, let us not forget that we are stewards of liberty and our actions, no matter how well intentioned, will impact the freedoms of future generations. We should heed to the wisdom of Benjamin Franklin: "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."