Monday, January 16, 2006

Are We Safer Today Than in 1814?

Former Senator and VP Al Gore today reminded a Washington D.C. audience at Constitution Hall that Dr. Martin Luther King had once been the subject of illegal, secret surveillance by the government. Its discovery, he said, "helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping" that became the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which our present chief executive finds inconvenient.

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars simultaneously?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.

Technically, the Bill of Rights came about because opponents of the Constitution as drafted argued it would leave the country vulnerable to violations of civil rights by the central government, just as the British had done.

But the point is taken. Is there really a greater danger today that justifies executive power skirting civil liberties?

Full text of the hour-long speech is here.


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