Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is it Just a Piece of Paper?

The fifth amendment to our constitution is most famous for its use by criminals to avoid testifying against themselves, but it's actually a fairly lengthy piece of work, and the self-incrimination part of it is by no means
its most important feature.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Allow me to restate one clause of that as if it stood alone, so that there can be no ambiguity about it because, while some parts of our constitution can be construed as ambiguous and be the subject of argument as to the founders’ actual meaning, this one is crystal clear.

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

It is talking about what will not be allowed to happen under the auspices of the nation being governed by this document. It does not discuss who is doing the depriving, the type or nature of the person being deprived, any prior actions of such person, or the location of such deprivation. A person acting under the authority of this document to deprive anyone of life, liberty or property must do so in compliance with due process of law. Slapping handcuffs on a person is depriving them of liberty, and as such the procedure of “due process” must be put into place.

So all of this argument about how the “Christmas bomber” should be dealt with is utter nonsense. It doesn’t matter how safe we imagine it keeps us or not, it doesn’t matter how much or how little information we gain from him or how much or how little value that information might have. All of that is completely irrelevant. Who he is, what he is entitled to, where he came from, or what he has done are all irrelevant. We are required by law to do certain things, and so we must do them; not because we want to, or because they serve our purpose, but because doing so is required by the law of our land.

What part of that is so hard to understand?

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