Sunday, April 21, 2013

Epitaph for the Rule of Law

Trey Smith

I was alarmed to read that, after capturing suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Friday night, the Obama administration announced its intent to allow the FBI to interrogate him without first mirandizing him. Tsarnaey is a naturalized US citizen who is supposed to be protected by the Bill of Rights. One of those enumerated rights is housed in the 5th Amendment which states that no individual "shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself."

It does not matter that Tsarnaev is accused of committing heinous crimes. It does not matter that the vast majority of Americans probably loathe this young man. In a nation built upon the foundation of the "rule of law," rights are immutable. The worst offenders are afforded them just like anyone else. In fact, it is of vital importance that those accused of the worst crimes are provided with these basic rights because, as Glenn Greenwald aptly points out,
Leave aside the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been convicted of nothing and is thus entitled to a presumption of innocence. The reason to care what happens to him is because how he is treated creates precedent for what the US government is empowered to do, including to US citizens on US soil. When you cheer for the erosion of his rights, you're cheering for the erosion of your own.
You see, each time an exception to the rule of law is extended, you can guarantee that the "exception" will grow. What is utilized one time will be utilized two, three or four times. After a while, what was once viewed as a "one time exception" and/or controversial, will become run-of-the-mill. The exception will become the new standard.

This is how our rights get whittled away. In a democracy, the elite don't come in to make wholesale changes all at once. They do it incrementally and imperceptibly. They choose unpopular figures -- ones the public doesn't care about -- as their initial targets. With little public backlash, they move the needle farther to the right. Once the precedent is set, it becomes hard to go back. At this juncture, they devise a new "one time exception" and the process begins anew.

You might think that Tsarnaev doesn't deserve your concern, but remember what Greenwald has stated. Tsarnaev's rights are your rights too! If you don't stand up for his, who will stand up for yours?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are unmoderated, so you can write whatever you want.