In the United States’ history, there persists a steady trend: the denigration of the U.S. Constitution.
Today, that reality can be seen more clearly than ever due to police checkpoints, the PATRIOT Act, the National Defense Authorization Act and drone strikes perpetrated against American citizens.
Most people do not think twice about police checkpoints, but an honest reading of the Constitution deems them impermissible. At checkpoints, police stop vehicles, question the passengers and demand license and registration without probable cause.
These checkpoints ought to be seen as a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons... against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated...”
Regardless of the Fourth Amendment, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision in favor of police checkpoints. Their argument was that, “Due to the threat a drunk driver imposes on other motorists, [checkpoints are] a necessary means of protection.”
The PATRIOT Act is an example of an unconstitutional law, as it violates the First, Fourth and Sixth Amendments.
First Amendment violations: Thanks to the PATRIOT Act, the government may, without suspecting criminal behavior, monitor political and religious institutions, and “may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.”
(The First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise [of religion]; or abridging the freedom of speech...; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble...”)
Fourth Amendment violations: The PATRIOT Act allows for the government to search and seize the papers and effects of American citizens without probable cause in order to investigate suspected “terrorism.”
Sixth Amendment violations: Under the PATRIOT Act, American citizens are vulnerable to indefinite incarceration without trial or cause, government monitoring of attorney-client conversations in federal prisons and denial of legal counsel.
(Amendment VI: “The accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy trial, by an impartial jury... to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor... and to be confronted with the witnesses against him.”)
Another unconstitutional piece of legislation, and indeed the most comprehensive, was passed during the administration of President Barack Obama: the National Defense Authorization Act.
This piece of legislation codified the constitutional violations of the PATRIOT Act and added more violations of its own. The NDAA enables the U.S. military to engage in law enforcement of civilian populations, and gives them discretion in applying due process, habeas corpus and other Fifth and Sixth Amendment guarantees to persons living on U.S. soil.
The most striking part of the NDAA is its timetable: essentially, it has none.
The NDAA was created in response to the “war on terror,” so an “end of hostilities” may never come, which effectively allows the government to violate the rights of Americans whenever it sees fit.
The most egregious and disconcerting example of the violation of Americans’ constitutional rights are the assassinations of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, however. Al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico and became a senior Al-Qaeda operative in Yemen; Khan was from North Carolina, and became the developer of Al-Qaeda’s English internet magazine, Inspire.
In September 2011, while the men were traveling in Yemen, two U.S. Predator drones killed them both. “It was apparently the first time since the Civil War the United States government had carried out the deliberate killing of an American citizen as a wartime enemy without a trial.”
These examples illustrate that the Constitution no longer serves as a safeguard against tyranny and oppression. Those who are in power display a shocking willingness to do whatever they please — whatever they can to consolidate power.
—Jeremy Markel is a junior from Dunwoody majoring in communications studies