Whenever we Americans feel threatened we often react with a knee jerk and take our anger out on “others” while shrugging our shoulders at erosions and infringements on our Constitutionally protected freedoms in the name of security.
We have a long history of treating immigrants badly, not to mention our horrid treatment of African Americans for the first 170 years of the Constitution’s existence.
But we really become cavalier about the Constitution when people are shooting at us.
We rounded up German Americans in World War I and German, Italian and Japanese Americans during World War II and put them in concentration camps. No trial. No due process. No outrage.
After both world wars we were in a panic about communism, the so-called Red Scare, and we convened several inquisitional hearings in the Congress to ferret out the commies, while secretly following and wire tapping anyone who may have once met an avowed communist.
Infamous FBI director J. Edgar Hoover treated the Constitution like it was nuisance when it came to commie hunting, but also when it came to keeping tabs on “subversives” like civil rights leaders and anti-war protestors.
After Sept. 11, 2001, frightened Americans acquiesced to erosions of the Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendments in the name of “national security” by the acceptance of the PATRIOT Act, which made electronic snooping and data mining legal as long as a secret court signed off on it.
We spent hundreds of billions of dollars creating an intelligence infrastructure capable of electronically spying on not only the entire world but on every American, too.
The irony of the PATRIOT Act is that it was unnecessary. The CIA knew al-Qaeda was planning an attack on America and the FBI had detected every cell of the 9/11 plot.
What the intelligence community lacked was a Department of Connecting The Dots.
An attempt was made at dot connecting post 9/11 with the creation of the intelligence czar, or Director of National Intelligence, who was supposed to coordinate all of the intel gathered by the CIA, the NSA and the Defense Department. The new Department of Homeland Security was supposed to consolidate the alphabet soup of national law enforcement, the FBI, the ATF, the DEA, ICE, Border Patrol.
Neither happened. The intelligence czar spends most of his time playing solitaire in an empty office after the CIA, NSA and DOD successfully beat back attempts at intelligence consolidation. It was more important to them to protect bureaucratic turf than the country, apparently.
The FBI managed to wriggle out of DHS, which has proved to be a massive money suck that is more effective at harassing American citizens in airports and border crossings than securing the “homeland.”
Meanwhile, various malcontents poisoned by the vile waters of radical Islam continue to plot and plan.
The horrible tragedy of the second Boston massacre was compounded this week when news leaked that Russia had asked the FBI and State Department to keep an eye on bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev because of his apparent interest in radical Islam.
No PATRIOT Act was needed to detect that Tsarnaev might be up to no good. Yet here we are, 12 years and hundreds of billion dollars later and it turns out that we still need a “Department of Connecting the Dots.”
It’s not likely we’ll get it. Since the Boston bombing, wild-eyed members of Congress and the conservative press have been flailing about hollering for restrictions on Muslim immigration, wiretapping mosques and requiring Muslim Americans to take loyalty oaths.
The Constitution is supposed to make us the freest nation on Earth. Yet when we’re frightened, we’re a nation of Constitutional hypocrites.
Freedom is what makes us strong. Willingly giving it up in the name of security only makes us weaker.