His excuse is the usual one: “We're now dealing with international terrorism," Eric Holder announced last weekend. "And if we are going to have a system that is capable of dealing in a public safety context with this new threat, I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying [the laws surrounding Miranda]… That's one of the things that I think we're going to be reaching out to Congress to do, to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional, but that is also relevant to our time and the threat that we now face.”
Politicians and bureaucrats incessantly claim that 9/11 changed everything. The old, established methods of protecting life and property no longer work, especially those methods the U.S. Constitution prescribes. It’s not the Founders’ fault, of course: they were smart guys for their day, though they lacked the omniscience of the modern Congress and White House. But how could even the most perspicacious Founder have foreseen terrorism, let alone understand its unique fear and deadliness? Ergo, such quaint holdovers from that innocently safe world as habeas corpus, our right “to be secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” or our freedom from “be[ing] compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against [ourselves],” must give way before the unprecedented emergency we now face. Only the abolition — sorry, modification of such safeguards can keep us safe.
And only the arrogant, narcissistic cowards in government could possibly promulgate such poppycock.
Any disaster, even 9/11, alters circumstances alone. It cannot change human nature. Some men will always be grasping, power-hungry, and lazy. Earning wealth and respect through hard work and integrity requires too much effort. They seek easier ways of dominating their neighbors and flock to the government.
So it was human nature itself, not fleeting circumstances, that the Founders tackled when they wrote the Declaration and Constitution. They tried to protect the hard-working, peaceful majority from the blood-sucking minority. They even fought the American Revolution to prove that sinners who cannot govern themselves have no business governing others.
Yes, our world has changed immensely since then. Technology is the most obvious difference; certainly eighteenth-century Americans would be flabbergasted at television and open-heart surgery, let alone fast food, aviation, the Internet. But while our situation varies greatly from theirs, our nature doesn’t. The same insatiable thirst for power over their fellows, the same determination to impose their supposedly superior opinions and will on them, that drove Alexander Hamilton and British General John Burgoyne drives George Bush, Barack Obama, Barney Frank (D-Mass), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Justice Samuel Alito, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner and all their accomplices in crime. We need the same protections our ancestors did from these myrmidons of the rapacious State.
Furthermore, perils every bit as lethal though diverse from ours decimated the eighteenth century. Epidemics of flu fell us; epidemics of smallpox cursed them (though they blessedly lacked both a WHO and a Department of Health and Human Services to hype aches and chills into a worldwide crisis). Our cars crash; their horses threw them (though no cops swarmed the accident to ticket the victims). We have terrorists, they had…terrorists. Yep, the Founders who allegedly never imagined civilians ambushing other civilians either personally suffered terrorists’ attacks or knew folks who had. Yet they still damned the State as exponentially more menacing, nor would they have unleashed its power for so diffuse and remote a risk.
It isn’t politically correct to call the native Americans who defended their homes from white encroachment “terrorists,” but they meet the accepted definition of the word – as do all governments: “the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, esp. for political purposes.” That’s not to say the Indians’ defense of their families and lands wasn’t justified, any more than modern terrorists aren’t justified when they demand that American politicians withdraw American troops from their countries. But to imply that the Founders would have empowered the State had they coped with terrorism is historical ignorance and vanity at its worst.
Indeed, a terrorist attack nearly killed the man who led Americans’ rebellion against the British Empire. George Washington was 21 years old and a major in Virginia’s militia when he carried a letter from the colony’s royal governor to French forts in the Ohio Valley, warning the commanders that the King of England considered the region his. Washington then headed back through wintry wilderness to Williamsburg. Along the way, he and his guide “fell in with a Party of French Indians, who had lain in wait for us; one of them fired at Mr. Gist or me, not 15 Steps, but fortunately missed.” Later, Washington and Gist encountered “20 Warriors [friendly to the British], who … coming to a Place upon the Head of the Great Cunnaway, … found 7 People killed and scalped, all but one woman with very light Hair, They report that the People were lying about the House, and some of them much torn and eaten by Hogs…”
We can argue about whether the potshot that missed Washington was truly terrorism since its target was an armed major of militia (though neither the British Army nor the colonists considered militia either professional or equal to the King’s troops), fulfilling a quasi-military assignment. But a man who grew up near the frontier, who routinely heard of slaughtered settlers and who himself survived a sudden, surprise attack, was intimately familiar with terrorism – far more so than such silly Warriors on Terror as Eric Holder.
No matter: Holder continues the Justice Department’s tradition of whaling away at the Constitution George Washington helped establish. His assault on the Miranda warning isn’t as consequential as earlier onslaughts; after all, the warning is a ridiculous little sandbag on the raging flood of tyrannical police. The Supreme Court invented it in 1966, supposedly so that cops would no longer coerce us into false confessions, when the justices ought instead to have abolished our domestic standing armies once and for all. Perhaps they can work the same magic with Obamacare, rendering it constitutional by ordering doctors not to medically experiment on patients.
Meanwhile, just as Washington and most of the Founders realized, government endangers us far more than any terrorists.
Becky Akers, an expert on the American Revolution, writes frequently about issues related to security and privacy. Her articles and columns have been published by Lewrockwell.com, The Freeman, Military History Magazine, American History Magazine, the Christian Science Monitor, the New York Post, and other publications.