If something horrifying happens, we must ignore due process and deny Americans their rights. To be safe. This was basically the argument many conservatives (and Democrats) made post-9/11 to help pass the Patriot Act, and it’s exactly the argument most liberals are making when they push gun bans to people on terror watch lists.
If we’re going to do this, let’s be consistent.
If the FBI is conducting a criminal investigation of your suspected illegal use of a home email server to transmit classified intelligence, you shouldn’t be allowed to just go and run for president. Obviously. The idea that we would allow a person who can’t be trusted with our most vital secrets to hold the most powerful office in the nation is absurd. It’s just not safe.
It’s worse than that, actually. Being on a watch list would probably be best described—using Hillary’s own euphemism—as having a “security inquiry.” The Democratic Party nominee is under criminal investigation by the nation’s prime federal law enforcement agency. She’s practically guilty.
Or maybe Hillary (and Donald Trump, as far as we know) only believes the Fifth Amendment should be discarded if talking about Muslim surnames? Because then it gets perplexing. Many of the same voices—Hillary, included—who claim that those of us focusing on the ideological affiliations of terrorists are perpetuating hate, also argue that denying the rights of Muslim Americans is a necessity. Surely, Muslims—most of whom are “innocent people” who “are blacklisted without a fair process to correct government error,” as the ACLU puts it—dominate the list.
At last count there were over 700,000 people on the various terrorist watch lists. Most Americans still have no idea if they are on the list. They have no idea how someone gets on the terror list. They have no idea how someone gets off the list, either.
Chief Judge Alex Kozinski had a simple question for the government attorney: what would you do if you found yourself on the No Fly List? After some hemming and hawing, the attorney said that he would seek “redress” from the Department of Homeland Security – even though DHS does not place people on the No Fly list and has no authority to remove them (that’s the FBI’s job). Because, the lawyer conceded, DHS would not be able to confirm or deny whether he was on the list, he would then seek review in a federal appellate court. And what would the court be able to do?, asked Judge Kozinski. Not much, said the government lawyer. In fact, the lawyer would not even concede that a federal court possessed the authority to order someone removed from the No Fly List.
This kind of system is not only ripe for abuse, it’s primed for failure. Because, by the way, no one “is able to just go buy a gun.” Omar Mateen reportedly passed a background check. He was not on a terror watchlist, according to a U.S. intelligence source, so none of this would have mattered anyway. As far as we know, the FBI had questioned him and then removed him from the list once it closed its investigation. That is not a failure of gun laws, if anything, it’s a failure of law enforcement.
Not that this stops anyone. Every time there is a horrific shooting or terror act we’re in for some scaremongering meant to bolster some predetermined political agenda. Places like Vox openly call for frightening people about terrorism in an effort to scare people out of their individual rights, codified by the Bill of Rights and upheld by the Supreme Court. They offer not one single idea that might have hindered this act of terror, or any of the mass shootings we’ve seen. It’s worth remembering the next time liberals claim to have reverence for due process.