Consider the impact on the civil liberties of the American people of four of the non-stop wars that the U.S. government has been waging for a very long time: the war on drugs, the war on terrorism, the war on immigrants, and the war on wealth. These four wars have converted what was once a free country into a police state, making the United States the most over-incarcerated nation in the world.
The war on drugs has subjected people to an untold number of searches of persons, homes, businesses, and especially automobiles. This war has served as a convenient excuse to make vast inroads on the protections against unreasonable searches provided by the Fourth Amendment. It would be impossible to calculate the number of people who have been stopped, patted down, and searched, especially without a judicially issued search warrant, in the name of the war on drugs during the past several decades.
The drug war has also brought us asset-forfeiture, a money-making operation for law enforcement that has encouraged the police and the DEA to make warrantless stops of people traveling on the highways, in the hopes of finding a large amount of cash to seize. Additionally, it has encouraged law-enforcement personnel to initiate searches of homes, businesses, and cars in the hopes that some drugs will be found, thereby enabling them to seize the property of the owner.
Think about all the invasions of financial privacy that now form a permanent part of American life. That’s what both the war on drugs and the war on terrorism have wrought. People no longer have the freedom to keep their financial affairs secret from the government. People now have to take great care in how they deposit money into banks or withdraw it, owing to laws against “structuring.” Bankers have been converted into snitches, reporting to the government any large deposits of money by their customers or any other “suspicious” behavior. The idea is that the customer might be a drug dealer or a terrorist.
People traveling outside the country are required to report whether they’re carrying large sums of cash. If they’re caught failing to do so, they have their money confiscated. That’s because of the war on drugs and the war on terrorism.
Consider what the war on immigration has done to civil liberties. Immigration checkpoints on public highways, where federal officials not only have the authority to demand identification papers of people who are travelling domestically but also to conduct a full-scale, warrantless search of their vehicles. If they find anything illegal in the vehicle during these immigration checkpoints, such as illicit drugs, they turn the person over to the DEA or police for arrest and prosecution.
There are also roving automobile searches, where the Border Patrol arbitrarily stops cars on the highways and, after stating some excuse for the stop, such as “automobile riding low,” conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle. Once again, if drugs are found, the person is turned over to drug war agents for criminal prosecution.
Additionally, there are the daily warrantless searches of farms and ranches that are located both on the border and several miles away from the border. These warrantless searches are justified under the rubric of controlling the border or the “functional equivalent of the border.”
The war on terrorism has placed the American people under the ultimate control of the military and the CIA. The military now wields the legal authority to take any person into custody as an “enemy combatant,” incarcerate him in a concentration camp or military dungeon, torture him, or execute him. Moreover, both the CIA and the military now wield the power to assassinate any suspected terrorist, including American citizens, and to do so anywhere in the world, including here in the United States. No right to jury trial, no protection from cruel and unusual punishments. Thanks to the war on terrorism, the military and the CIA, now have the authority to deprive any person, including American citizens, of life and liberty, without due process of law, notwithstanding the clear prohibition on such conduct in the Fifth Amendment.
The war on terrorism has also subjected the American people, as well as everyone else around the world, to the omnipotent surveillance powers of the NSA. Emails, telephone calls, and other electronic communications are now subject to being read and recorded by NSA agents. Judicial processes to judge such actions are held in secret, just like in totalitarian regimes. The very existence of the NSA has eradicated any reasonable expectation of privacy. Everyone must now operate on the assumption that his private communications are being monitored and recorded and live his life accordingly.
The war on terrorism has also subjected Americans to severe penalties, both civil and criminal, for engaging in trade with people in countries that are being sanctioned by the U.S. government.
The war on wealth has long subjected the American people to the omnipotent power of the Internal Revenue Service. To collect money from the American people to fund the welfare-warfare state, the IRS has been given omnipotent powers that strike fear in the hearts of any reasonable person. Under the income tax laws, everyone is mandated by law to report his most private of personal financial affairs to the government. If the IRS suspects the person of lying, it will hit him with an assessment and begin seizing his assets with attachments, garnishments, and liens. No lawsuit. No due process. No presumption of innocence. Just raw power to collect the monies that are necessary to fund the welfare-warfare state while, in the process, destroying both civil liberties and economic liberty.
The problem is that all too many Americans, believe that these four wars are part and parcel of a free society, a belief they demonstrate every time they praise the military and the CIA for “defending our freedom.” They exemplify the words of Johann Goethe: “None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” Even many of those who have knowingly traded our liberty for security, are convinced that it was necessary to do so. But nothing could be further from the truth, as our American ancestors, who lived without these four wars for more than a century, demonstrated.
For Americans who are interested in regaining their freedom, security, and economic well-being, a good place to start would be by terminating, not reforming, these four long-standing wars of the federal government: the wars on drugs, terrorism, immigration, and wealth.
Reprinted with permission from the Future of Freedom Foundation.