Modern Writs of Assistance and the PATRIOT ACT
Posted by jeremiasx on March 13, 2007
Unreasonable search and seizure by British authorities was one of the main complaints from the colonials in the time leading up to the American Revolution. This should be carefully considered by all patriotic Americans in regards to the recent abuses of the U.S. Government in its application of broad and sweeping powers granted by the USA PATRIOT Acts I and what was proposed in PATRIOT ACT II…
First, let’s discuss one of the issues that had the Founding Fathers up in arms…writs of assistance used by the British against any regular, law-abiding citizen to search their property upon mere suspicion and without specifying WHAT they were looking for.
Is this not the very SAME power that has been granted to domestic “counter-terror” investigators in the FBI, NSA, and CIA? Basically they are allowed to enter your abode, your domicile, your HOME…and without your knowledge they are allowed to search for UNSPECIFIED material evidence in an attempt to link U.S. citizens to various terrorist organizations. This is a power which needs to be checked because it has OBVIOUSLY been used in means contradictory to the intent of the PATRIOT ACT, without sufficient oversight and often in abusive measures which have not been seen on our continent since the days of the American Revolution.
Next we have the NSA domestic wiretapping issue…this is not a partisan or political complaint I’m making…regardless of any previous executive who ALSO used this ability in contradiction of the obvious intent of the 4th amendment…this administration has used it, continues to use it, and continues to claim it as a constitutional power granted to the Executive Branch in a “time of war” due to the “War on Terror” which is an indefinite war against unspecified enemies. This is a ludicrous stretch of constitutional interpretation of presidential power, regardless of one’s party affiliation, any honest person must agree.
True conservatives, who seek to protect our CONSTITIONAL RIGHTS, should stand up to George W. Bush and his NEOCON administration to voice their concerns and call for an immediate reversal of these policy trends which are eroding our civil liberties. How can we, in good faith, remain quiet and allow our freedoms to be stripped away by those who PRETEND conservatism while practicing policies which are inherently UNAMERICAN and undermining the body of laws and principles upon which our great nation was founded?
Let us consider the source of a great man whom John Adams bestowed this compliment,
I have been old and now I am dead, and I solemnly say I have never known a man whose love of country was more ardent or sincere, never one who suffered so much, never one whose service for any 10 years of his life were so important and essential to the cause of his country as those of Mr. Otis from 1760 to 1770.
Here is an excerpt from “Against the Writs of Assistance” an argument eloquently put forth by a Mr. James Otis, on February 24th, 1761:
Your Honors will find in the old books concerning the office of a justice of the peace precedents of general warrants to search suspected houses. But in more modern books you will find only special warrants to search such and such houses, specially named, in which the complainant has before sworn that he suspects his goods are concealed; and will find it adjudged that special warrants only are legal. In the same manner I rely on it, that the writ prayed for in this petition, being general, is illegal. It is a power that places the liberty of every man in the hands of every petty officer. I say I admit that special Writs of Assistance, to search special places, may be granted to certain persons on oath; but I deny that the writ now prayed for can be granted, for I beg leave to make some observations on the writ itself, before I proceed to other Acts of Parliament.
In the first place, the writ is universal, being directed “to all and singular justices, sheriffs, constables, and all other officers and subjects”; so that, in short, it is directed to every subject in the King’s dominions. Every one with this writ may be a tyrant; if this commission be legal, a tyrant in a legal manner, also, may control, imprison, or murder any one within the realm. In the next place, it is perpetual; there is no return. A man is accountable to no person for his doings. Every man may reign secure in his petty tyranny, and spread terror and desolation around him, until the trump of the Archangel shall excite different emotions in his soul. In the third place, a person with this writ, in the daytime, may enter all houses, shops, etc., at will, and command all to assist him. Fourthly, by this writ not only deputies, etc., but even their menial servants, are allowed to lord it over us. What is this but to have the curse of Canaan with a witness on us: to be the servants of servants, the most despicable of God’s creation?
Now, one of the most essential branches of English liberty is the freedom of one’s house. A man’s house is his castle; and whilst he is quiet, he is as well guarded as a prince in his castle. This writ, if it should be declared legal, would totally annihilate this privilege. Custom-house officers may enter our houses when they please; we are commanded to permit their entry. Their menial servants may enter, may break locks, bars, and everything in their way; and whether they break through malice or revenge, no man, no court can inquire. Bare suspicion without oath is sufficient.
The extrapolation and interpretation of this SAME argument, in a modern context concerning the application of the numerous new police powers granted by the current administration to all law enforcement officials, through the USA PATRIOT Acts Part 1 and 2, are EXACTLY the same as the “general warrants upon suspicion” which the Founding Fathers saw as a PRIME CAUSE for revolution and overthrow of the government. Have we come so far, have we been so paralyzed by the use of the “Terrorism” word that we will completely relinquish our BASIC CIVIL LIBERTIES?
Can we assume that today, as in the time of the Revolution, that the authorities are apt to display PRUDENCE in the use of these unduly granted powers? Of course not, this VERY day Department of Justice officials are having to answer for their blatant abuse of these general warrants in regards to the confiscation of business records, unauthorized wiretaps, and undue surveillance upon many and various innocent, honest American citizens.
I’m all for implementing laws that can be used to fight terrorism…we already HAD them. We’ve ALWAYS had them. How difficult would it have been for the FBI and other counter-terrorist agencies within the federal government to use EXISTING FISA and other applicable laws to prevent 9/11 or any other terrorist incidents??? Think about it.