There is a trend by our elected king and queens, excuse me elected representatives in passing laws that are unconstitutional and in many cases violate the first ten amendments of the Constitution, commonly referred to as the Bill of Rights. To quote John Barlow:
The men who drafted the [U.S.] Constitution and its first ten amendments knew something that we have largely forgotten: Government exists to limit freedom. That's their job. And to the extent that utterly unbridled liberty seems to favor the reptile in us, a little government is not such a bad thing. But it never knows when to quit. As there is no limit to either human imagination or creativity in the wicked service of the Self, so it is always easy for our official protectors to envision new atrocities to prevent.
[Bill O' Rights, The Impact of Technology on Civil Rights by John Barlow]
If we were to take a look at what our elected representatives have done in the last 25 years, you can see gradual erosion of what were fundamental basic rights the government was not allowed to touch. Constitutional protections of rights have now become bargaining chips in a political ideological war where our right to life, liberty, and property has been put at extreme risk.
Some may think, "It is really not that bad, the government couldn't have violated all of the Bill of Right, you're just being an alarmist." unfortunately not, I now present to you The Endangered Bill of Rights:
Amendment One: Freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The First Amendment is under attack by laws like the Communication Decency Act. It violates your right to speak your mind on the Internet. Then there are the court decisions controlling commercial speech, in particular the banning of alcohol and tobacco ads on radio and television, and just recently in many states the banning of bill boards advertising these products. The banning of artistic and non-verbal expression, I do not think a year goes by that some Religious Right member of Congress proposes some law that will control what you and I read or look out.
On of the new things government has started doing is prohibiting religion practices. The way they do this is to prohibit the holding of religious services in private homes though the use of zoning laws. This is already happening, the city of Palm Bay, FL tried this particular stunt with the Church of the Iron Oak.
One of the latest outrages was perpetrated by former US Attorney General John Ashcroft's when various pro-rights groups started complaining about what the government was doing to "Protect" us (i.e. the Patriot Act) stated publicly that those of us who were complaining about what the government was doing were, and I quote "...aiding and abetting terrorist organizations..." in an effort to get pro-rights activists to shut up.
Amendment Two: Right to keep and bear arms.
A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed
The 2nd Amendment has under attack by legislation like the Brady Bill, which bans or restricts the private ownership of firearms for self-defense. If anyone has notices most of the arms banned were the ones that could be afforded by the poor and those just also happen to be the same ones referred by drug pushers, terrorists, and organized criminals.
I will expound on this in a later article, but it is my very strong belief that the events of September 11th could have been prevented, if the Federal government didn't have laws that leave airline passengers and their crews defenseless against any armed attacker.
Amendment Three: Quartering troops in private homes.
No soldier shall, in a time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner prescribed by law.
For whatever reason, this is the only part of the Bill of Rights not violated by the government today.
Amendment Four: Protection from unreasonable search and seizure.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and affects, against unreasonable search and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Under attack by government agencies, FBI, DEA, Customs, local LEO's, etc, etc, taking property without any hearing or indictment by a Grand Jury.
If you take a look at case law for the last fifteen years or so, you will find that the Fourth Amendment has become more or less a dead Amendment. A lot of what remained of it was flushed down the toilet when the Rehnquist Court declared that in the presence of "probable cause", a phrase of inviting openness, law enforcement officials could search first and obtain warrants later.
This has been stretched even further with the passing of the Patriot Act which gave federal law enforcement agencies the ability to tap our phones, read our email, without getting a warrant and use anything the government had collect against us.
Amendment Five: Due process and Grand Juries.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on 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; nor shall any person be subject to the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness, against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Under attack through such sweeping prosecutorial enablements as RICO and Zero Tolerance, the authorities could enact their own unadjudicated administrative "fines" by keeping much of what they seized for their own uses. This incentive often leads to disproportionalities between "punishment" and "crime" which even Kafka might have found a bit over the top. There is one case in which the DEA acquired a $14 million Gulfstream Bizjet from a charter operator because one of his clients left half a gram of cocaine in its washroom.
Amendment Six: Right to speedy trial and court procedures.
In all criminal prosecution, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy an public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Under attack by advocates of RICO and Zero Tolerance laws and the elimination's of the exclusionary rule. Then there are the laws authorizing lengthy pre-trial detention and a legal system in which it can take years before a case comes to trial, as a result of an ever-expanding list of crimes.
Amendment Seven: Right to trial by jury.
In suits of common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be other-wise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
The threat of lengthy pre-trial detention (violation of the 6th Amendment) and civil asset forfeiture force many innocent people into pleading guilty to crimes they did not commit. There are also de facto gag rules against informing juries of their right to acquit the defendant if they feel the law was unjustly applied (The right of jury nullification).
Amendment Eight: No excessive bail, fines and punishment.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel nd unusual punishments inflicted.
Under attack as the government abolishes bail for many federal crimes, and creates huge fines and draconian punishments for minor tax, drug, and regulatory offenses. The "War on Drugs" has resulted in various mandatory punishments and fines so Draconian in nature that would make the former Soviet Union's Communist government look downright lenient.
Amendment Nine: Rights reserved by individual citizens.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage other retained by the people.
Our inalienable natural rights to privacy, voluntary association, free exchange of goods and services, and self-ownership are being lost to those who oppose or ignore constitutional limits to government.
This is where the Patriot Act really comes into play, the prosecutorial enablements of the Patriot Act, your right to privacy, who you associate with, who you trade services or goods with can all come under scrutiny if “ANY” law enforcement agency “suspects” you, or you are accused of being in league with terrorists.
Amendment Ten: Powers not granted to the Federal Government
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States, respectively, or to the people.
Under attack as increasingly centralized federal power undermines the sovereignty of the States and their citizens through federal aid and the attendant regulation of all aspects of society and commerce. Back during the Regan administration, the drinking age was raised nation wide (in certain states the drinking age was 18) by the threat, either raise the drinking age or you will receive no federal money for your highways and interstate freeways.