This post explains the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution – and provides a scorecard on the extent of the loss of each right. (This is an updated version of an essay we wrote in February. Since then, it has become apparent that the few rights we thought we had left are largely illusory.)
The 1st Amendment protects speech, religion, assembly and the press:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The Supreme Court has also interpreted the First Amendment as protecting freedom of association. However, the government is arresting those speaking out … and violently crushing peaceful assemblies which attempt to petition the government for redress. A federal judge found that the law allowing indefinite detention of Americans without due process has a “chilling effect” on free speech. And see this and this. There are also enacted laws allowing the secret service to arrest anyone protesting near the president or other designated folks (that might explain incidents like this). Mass spying by the NSA violates our freedom of association, chilling our willingness to associate with people who are not firmly in the mainstream. The threat of being labeled a terrorist for exercising our First Amendment rights certainly violates the First Amendment. The government is using laws to crush dissent, and it’s gotten so bad that even U.S. Supreme Court justices are saying that we are descending into tyranny. For example, the following actions may get an American citizen living on U.S. soil labeled as a “suspected terrorist” today:
Having an almanac
Complaining about the taste of your tap water
Criticizing the government’s targeting of innocent civilians with drones (although killing innocent civilians with drones is one of the main things which increases terrorism. And see this)
(Not having a Facebook account may soon be added)
And holding the following beliefs may also be considered grounds for suspected terrorism:
Liking the Founding Fathers
Being a Christian
Of course, Muslims are more or less subject to a separate system of justice in America. And 1st Amendment rights are especially chilled when power has become so concentrated that the same agency which spies on all Americans also decideswho should be assassinated.
The 2nd Amendment states….
Reprinted with permission from Washington’s Blog.