Suspension of Civil Liberties in America During Times of War
This paper will prove that civil liberties, in America, during times of war, should not be suspended. This paper will prove this point by discussing the impact of the Japanese internment camps in the 1940’s, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and more contemporary examples such as the Patriot Act that occurred after the 9/11 attacks. However, the main case examined will be the Japanese internment camps.
America has always been thought of as a land of freedom and salvation. America is a melting pot because of the immigrants that from all over the world that came to this country. Most of these immigrants came to America to escape the harsher conditions of their home countries. Here, in America, people have rights, rights that the government guarantees to its citizens. The constitution is the law of the land and ensures all of those rights are protected.
America is spoken so highly of for giving its citizens all these freedoms and rights, but it does not make itself look good when it strips its people of those rights during times of war. Civil liberties have been suspended for many citizens who the constitution states are lawful citizens of this country. The question though, is whether this is lawful, just, and should be allowed to be executed on America’s citizens. Not prisoners of war, not convicted felons or terrorists, not known threats to the country, but America’s very own innocent citizens.
One of the most famous claims to this unlawful suspension is the idea that the government is doing a protection to the citizens. “This administration's propensity for overstepping centuries-old legislative procedures is in the name of national security.” (Reaves). The government, is somehow protecting its citizens from people who pose little to no threat. Christopher Pyle, professor of politics and constitutional law at Mount Holyoke College, provides an example of the types of legal aliens in America that were rounded up after the attacks of 9/11. “Let's say there's a Pakistani man who's living here legally, he says. He owns a chain of motels, and one day, all of a sudden, he's arrested. When he asks why, officials tell him it's because he ‘harbored’ a suspected terrorist, a man who once stayed in the motel for a while and took the owner out for a beer.” (Reaves). In fact, the American Civil Liberties Union released a statistic on October 24, 2011, that stated since the Patriot Act went into office, there have been 192, 400 National Security Letters issued upon American citizens that only led to one terror-related conviction that would have occurred without help of The Patriot Act. Also, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that out of 143, 074 National Security Letters, 53 criminal cases were filed from them. 17 of those cases were for money laundering, 17 were due to illegal immigration, 19 involved fraud, and none of them involved threats of terrorism. It does not seem like America is very just in “protecting its citizens”.
Another dark aspect of suspension acts such as the Patriot Act, is that is opens up the door for more malicious acts such as giving the government permission to circumvent the legal requirements of a civilian trial that holds rights such as a trial by jury and “innocent until proven guilty”. With the Patriot Act, there is no such thing as innocence. President Bush called into effect an emergency order, just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, that allowed “non-citizens” suspected of terrorism to be tried in military tribunals instead of court. These military tribunals were highly unjustified because they called for persons arrested to be held at a military jail instead of a local police station where they could be miles off the U.S. coast and cannot easily access a defense attorney or cannot speak to their family. Unlike a trial which is a jury of your peers, this person tried in a military tribunal would instead only need a 2/3 vote...
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