The Federal Government, National Security, and Constitutional Rights

February 17, 2012
Typically, decisions made by the Federal Government shouldn’t trump constitutional rights, but they usually do during times of hardships and war. Especially when National Security becomes a question, many decisions often forget the basic Constitutional Rights. It seems from World War II and beyond, whenever a crisis occurs, basic rights seem to be forgotten more frequently. The Japanese Interment was the first big example of this. In reaction to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, thousands of Japanese-American Citizens were relocated to concentration camps, because of the Government’s fear of an internal attack. These camps were nothing like the concentration death camps in Europe- they weren’t designed to kill. However many rights were violated including the Fifth Amendment and the basic rights of being able to live and work where they wish. An act created under suspicion of a threat that has not had the evidence to be proven, which violated the constitution in several ways, was enacted nevertheless. There shouldn’t be a reason that National Security should come before Constitutional Rights, as we base our National Security on the Constitution. However, as the way of life changes, the Government often has to account for new modern world situations. Sadly, when dealing with these new situations, rights are often violated to deal with them. After 911, President Bush called for unwarranted wiretapping of people under suspicion of communicating with Al- Qaeda and other groups associated with terrorism. It violated the Fourth Amendment, and was a huge controversy because of the way the Executive Branch abused its power. Although unwarranted wiretapping was only to be used on citizens suspected of associating with terrorists, no warrants were presented, therefore leaving the issue un-justified and unconstitutional, along as illegal. These examples and others show that the government isn’t and hasn’t been very consistent during times of crisis. Going back to World War II and the United States Neutrality/Involvement of the war is a good example of the Government’s inconsistency in dealing with crisis. President Roosevelt insisted on staying out of foreign issues, and argued that even though there was war in Europe, the United States would be better focusing on fixing their own economic issues. However, the fighting took a turn for the worse and the U.S used the Lend Lease Act to end Neutrality and enter the issue by supplying much needed defense materials (weapons, ammunition, and aircraft) to Britain and France. On the topic of the war, President Roosevelt’s Address to Congress in 1941, he says that there are four human freedoms necessary to be secured in the future. However, since 1941, the United States have violated the “Four Freedoms” in several circumstances. Today one cannot help but wonder if someday in the future, basic rights will be forgotten, and National Security will trump their importance.

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