TAMPA, July 27, 2013 ― Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., introduced an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that would have defunded the NSA’s blanket collection of metadata and limited the government’s collection of records to those “relevant to a national security investigation.”
It terrified New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who lashed out at those who supported the bill and libertarianism in general.
“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.
Yes, it is dangerous, but to what? It is dangerous to the bloated national security state, which tramples the liberty and dignity of every American under the pretense of protecting them from what Charles Kenny recently called the “vastly exaggerated” threat of terrorism.
Chris Christie shamelessly invoked the image of “widows and orphans” of 9/11 in an attempt to discredit any resistance to the federal government’s complete disregard for the Bill of Rights. He then echoed former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani in claiming some imagined authority on the matter because he is the governor of the state “that lost the second-most people on 9/11.”
Newsflash to Governor Christie: You have no more moral authority on this subject than the U.S. Congress had legislative authority to pass the Patriot Act.
Christie doesn’t understand that the power that legislators may exercise is limited to what was delegated to them in the Constitution. He seems to believe that power changes depending upon how he “feels.”
“I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t,” he said. “And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.”
Ignoring the cheap tactic of trying to paint libertarians as “unfeeling” or not having sympathy for the victims of 9/11, there is a simple answer to Christie’s question.
“We as a country” decide questions like this through Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment forbids the federal government from running programs like the NSA’s. Only an amendment that revises or repeals it can change that.
Until then, the federal government does not have the power to do what it is currently doing, regardless of any terrorist attacks or how Christie feels about them.
Amash’s amendment should be unnecessary, but it is preferable at the moment to the remedy offered in the Declaration of Independence for a government that exercises power not given to it by the people.
If history provides any guidance, the people will never give this power to the federal government. Let’s not forget that none of the Soviet-style security measures establishd since 9/11 have prevented a single terrorist attack, other than those the government created itself. Flight 93 on 9/11, the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber were all foiled by private citizens, the latter two after the perpetrator walked right past the government’s garish security apparatus.
The truth is that no security measures will ever be able to make Americans 100 percent safe from harm. There is absolutely nothing the U.S. government could do right now to prevent Russia or China from launching a nuclear attack on the United States. What makes one unlikely is the ability for the United States to retaliate and the lack of any good reason for either country to do so. The United States doesn’t routinely commit acts of war against Russia or China.
Perhaps that strategy might also be effective in preventing terrorism.
Regardless, the government can’t stop the next terrorist attack any more than it has stopped any previously. What it can do is continue to erode American liberty. This country is already unrecognizable as the same one that ratified the Bill of Rights. The Chris Christies and Michelle Bachmanns (she’s “one of them”) of this world are too busy cowering in fear to be concerned with “esoteric” subjects like the liberty and dignity of the individual.
Their opinions are not important. The people will decide whether a false sense of security is worth their liberty or not.
The first shot in this war has been fired. Amash lost the opening battle, but so did the colonists at Bunker Hill.
The real question that the American people will have to answer is this:
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.