Most every time I walk to my car in Wilson North, I pass a bumper sticker that reads “Go ahead and take my civil liberties, I wasn’t using them anyway.” The first time I saw the sticker I chuckled, then frowned. It’s a clever bumper sticker and embodies two dangerous trends that have been growing – the reduction of personal freedom and privacy and the failure of people to speak up against these changes. Although I try to make use of my civil liberties as often as possible – the writing of this article included – it seems that my continued freedom is in constant jeopardy.

A few weeks ago President Bush signed into law H.R.5122, also known as the “John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007.” Hidden among the jungle of budgetary legalese is an amendment to The Insurrection Act, a law that governs the deployment and use of troops in the country. The old version of the law restricted the use of the National Guard to perform law enforcement duties only during times of natural or man-made disasters, accidents or catastrophes. The new version has no such restrictions. In essence, the President can now call up National Guard troops from any state to quell anything he may deem “domestic unrest,” in another state, without authorization from either governor.

Senator Leahy, the only Senator to express concern with this section of the act, went on to stress that “we certainly do not need to make it easier for presidents to declare martial law. Invoking the Insurrection Act and using the military for law enforcement activities goes against some of the central tenets of our democracy. One can easily envision governors and mayors in charge of an emergency having to constantly look over their shoulders while someone who has never visited their communities gives the orders.”

Three of the major considerations for the framers of our constitution were federalism, separation of federal and state power and checks and balances to ensure that no branch of government is more powerful than any other. In one fell swoop this bill gives the executive branch far greater power than ever intended by our founding fathers.

The ability to call up the National Guard or deploy federal troops to a state without authorization of the governor is a blatant blow to the concept of federalism – the idea that all powers not enumerated in the constitution are reserved for the states. In addition, giving the president the power to deploy troops on a whim, without preemptive oversight from congress, widens the already expansive power of the executive branch.

The U.S. Constitution set forth basic freedoms for all American citizens. With each passing day, new legislation is proposed and passed to curtail these rights, and new programs such as NSA wiretapping are uncovered that blatantly ignore them. The president gladly goes to war in the name of freedom but does nothing to protect the freedoms of those who matter most – the citizens.

Freidman is a member ofthe class of 2007.



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