Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 4:14 pm | Fair 76º


Randy Alcorn: Before It’s Too Late for America, Remember There’s No Freedom Without Risk

Hollywood’s World War II movies often depicted the suffocating surveillance, sadistic torture and gross injustice of the fascist police states that America and its allies were fighting. In one such movie, a hissing Nazi Gestapo agent menacingly hovers over a young girl strapped to a chair. He is mercilessly interrogating her as to the activities of her parents whom the agent suspects are disloyal to the state. He touches the burning end of his lit cigarette to the girl’s face and hands to force her answers.

As a young boy I was profoundly troubled by such movies. That anyone could engage in such brutal behavior was all the more disturbing because the perpetrators of the atrocities were the police. My mother had repeatedly told me that the police were there to protect me and that if I were ever lost or in trouble, I should find the nearest police officer. She assured me that the abuse of police power portrayed in that movie could never happen here in America.

Well, maybe not then.

Given the historically proven shortcomings of human nature, power is always subject to abuse. And, if absolute power corrupts absolutely, then logically, we should expect that with increasing power there will be increasing abuse.

On my desk, is a stack of news reports of egregious incidents of police power abuse that have been exposed in just the last two months. I recently recycled a file full of such reports that I had collected over the past several years. These reports come from all over the country and involve virtually every level of law enforcement.

Since 9/11, Congress and two presidents have tremendously increased police power by passing and renewing the Patriot Act and the Protect America Act. Both of these deceptively named pieces of legislation not only compromise constitutional limits on police power, but arguably exceed those limits.

The continuing revelations provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about the unbounded extent of U.S. spying has shocked and angered people both within the United States and around the world. Whether you regard Snowden as a patriotic whistle-blower or as a traitor, his actions have exposed the deceit and the rampant, peeping Tom, creepiness of the U.S. government’s intelligence apparatus.

The heads of these intelligence agencies defiantly defend their excessive eavesdropping as necessary and effective in deflecting terrorist threats to America, although what little they provide to substantiate these assertions hardly justifies dishonoring constitutional rights.

Like the federal government’s war on drugs, the war on terrorism has opened up another front in the government’s war on individual liberty. Freedom of movement, privacy and due process are all abased using the justification of national security. Freedom is again being restricted — for our own good.

After 9/11, when many frightened Americans willingly accepted erosion of constitutional rights in exchange for the promise of security, you often heard them quoting some gutless goon’s statement that “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” Well, maybe not, but many thousands of Americans have given their lives to preserve the fundamental founding principles of freedom and civil rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Yeah, they might not have, per se, committed suicide for the Constitution, but they did storm the beaches of Normandy knowing full well that many of them would be maimed and massacred.

When I recall the acres of gleaming grave markers at Normandy or Arlington, I am disgusted by that craven statement, “The Constitution is not a suicide pact.” Has that now replaced “Give me liberty, or give me death” as the proud American axiom?

Freedom is risky. An open, free society is inherently insecure — things can go wrong.

If you choose to live where hurricanes, earthquakes or wildfires are certain hazards, do you want that choice prohibited by government — for your own security? If some people commit armed robbery, should the police be allowed to arbitrarily stop and frisk you at any time — for your own security? If terrorists are intent on murder and mayhem, should government agents be allowed to secretly screen all of your communications, paw through your luggage, or strip search you at the airport — for your own security? If some people choose to use drugs that the government doesn’t like, should the state be allowed to restrict your pain medication, or subject you to sniffing dogs — for your own security?
Giving the state more police power to make you secure not only does not ensure your security, it eventually makes you less secure. It inevitably gives you the hissing Gestapo agent torturing you or your loved ones — for state security.

It really takes a certain level of courage to live free. If security is more precious to you than is living free, then prepare for tyranny.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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