Anti-terrorist proposals are "attack on the rights of innocent Americans," charges Harry Browne.
Harry Browne on
Press release of 1996-08-01
President Bill Clinton and Congressional Republicans are using the recent attacks on TWA Flight 800 and the Olympic games to try to pass a "wish list" of unconstitutional legislation under the guise of fighting terrorism, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Harry Browne charged today.
"If we're not careful, half of the Bill of Rights will fall victim to the frantic desire of Republican and Democratic politicians to appear tough on terrorists," he warned.
Browne spoke out against a wide range of so-called "anti-terrorist" proposals from the White House and Congressional Republicans including roving wiretaps, no-warrant wiretaps, extending RICO laws to terrorists, Internet censorship, government-mandated taggants, and efforts to weaken computer privacy.
"Each of these proposals is an attack on the rights of innocent Americans masquerading as an attack on guilty terrorists," said Browne. "Add them all together, and you have a Republican and Democratic wish list to increase the power of government at the expense of the Bill of Rights.
"But the Bill of Rights is a literal and absolute document. The First Amendment doesn't say you have a right to speak out unless the government has a 'compelling interest' in censoring the Internet. The Second Amendment doesn't say you have the right to keep and bear arms until some madman plants a bomb. The Fourth Amendment doesn't say you have a right to be secure from search and seizure unless some FBI agent thinks you fit the profile of a terrorist. The government has no right to interfere with any of these freedoms under any circumstances," said Browne.
The Libertarian candidate said the "anti-terrorist" proposals and the bipartisan haste to pass them into law dramatically illustrate the importance of having another choice in the 1996 presidential race.
"Clinton has gotten into a bidding war with Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, and other Republicans to see who can repeal your rights fastest. Neither of the two older parties will defend the Bill of Rights. Only a Libertarian will speak out against this headlong rush towards a police state," he said.
Responding to the specific "anti-terrorist" proposals, Browne said he opposes:
Unlike Republicans and Democrats, Browne said he wouldn't be goaded into permanently gutting the Bill of Rights to temporarily grandstand as "tough on terrorists."
- So-called "roving" wiretaps, which would allow police to tap multiple phones of suspected criminals. "This does nothing but make it easier for the government to spy on people not convicted of any crime," said Browne. "There is no evidence that this kind of wire-tapping power would have prevented any past terrorist action or will prevent any future terrorist act."
- No-warrant wiretaps, which grant "emergency" wiretap authority to government agents for 48 hours without a judge's order. "This would repeal basic Fourth Amendment protections and put us all at the mercy of uncontrolled government spying," said Browne.
- Extending anti-racketeering statutes to terrorists, making them subject to property forfeiture laws. "Asset forfeiture laws are a license for legal looting by law enforcement," said Browne. "These laws must be abolished not expanded."
- A provision which would ban the publication of bomb-making information on the Internet while keeping it legal in printed form. "Politicians claim the First Amendment doesn't apply to the Internet, while blithely ignoring the fact that such information remains widely available in public libraries, army manuals, and even in the Encyclopedia Britannica," said Browne.
- A long-standing White House push to allow government officials to spy on computer communications by mandating weakened encryption technology. "Free speech includes the right not to be spied on by government officials," countered Browne.
- Government mandated taggants microscopic plastic color-coded identifiers in black or smokeless powder and explosives. "Such taggants pose a safety threat to innocent users, would create a de facto system of ammunition registration, and would impose a hidden tax of up to $700 million on the mining and quarrying industries, which are the principal users of such products," said Browne.
"The Bill of Rights wasn't written to protect terrorists. It was designed to protect you," said Browne. "Of course, these safeguards would protect the guilty as well as the innocent. But brushing them aside gives government employees the power to do as they wish to harass whomever they think is guilty. If that happens, then terrorists have already won their greatest victory."
Harry Browne, Voice Of Libertarianism, Dead At 72
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