Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Forgetting our Roots

Much has been made of the arrest of Faizal Shahzad and his attempt to blow up a car in Times Square. It is a big story that shows the best and worst of what America has to offer. (I am kind of stealing this point from a Wall Street Journal editorial but it isn't my main point). The WSJ and Sean Hannity, both of whom I agree with the vast majority of the time, have it wrong in this case.

Both are upset at Shahzad's arraignment in court. Eager to exploit what intelligence he may or may not have, both insist that 'mirandizing' him was wrong, or premature. We must remember that Shahzad is an American citizen. As Americans, we don't get to pick and choose when we afford rights to other Americans. Hannity argued on his radio show today that there may be an urgent need for more information as 'there are usually coordinated attacks', he argued. Name them, I say. Well there was 9/11 and ... uh, well, there are others I am sure.

But it is terrorism, they cry. Defined by whom? I am not saying it wasn't, but the last thing I want is some bureaucrat defining when the government can suspend my rights. A mall shooting is terrifying. Should we suspend the rights of the suspect of that horrible crime. Ask the victim of any home invasion if it is terrifying or not. Where does it stop? Who defines terror?

It seems that the WSJ and Hannity (among others) wish to presume the guilt of this American citizen. We have rules for dealing with enemy combatants and rules for dealing with American citizens. If we let the government take away the rights of one citizen, it is easier for them to come calling for others.

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