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This Is America?
Who Gave Your Rights Away?

By Harry Browne
Nov. 28, 2001

               Many conservatives, liberals and libertarians are protesting the numerous
               invasions of your liberty that Congress and the Bush administration have
               imposed during the past two months.  But without realizing it, many of the
               protestors brought these invasions on themselves.
               This is America?
               I do share their concerns, however.
               First, Congress rammed through an "anti-terrorism" bill that violates the
               civil liberties of all Americans, not just terrorists.
               The new law allows federal officials to search your home when you're
               not present and not even tell you your home has been searched. You
               could come home one day and find your computer, file cabinets and legal
               papers have disappeared. You'd naturally think it was a burglary, but the
               burglars would be government employees (shades of Watergate).
               Warrants can be issued in secret, and you may not be allowed to see a
               warrant - or contest it - covering a search of your property.
               This is America?
               Government officials can go into any company anywhere and search
               records of your purchases and credit history, discover the websites
               you've visited, or monitor your e-mail - without evidence of a crime and
               without telling you, and they can order the companies not to tell you
               about the search.
               Then the Bush administration, apparently invoking the divine right of
               kings, decided that people can be tried and executed by secret courts
               (using secret evidence not available for you to refute), that government
               agents can eavesdrop on attorney-client conversations, and that federal
               agents can conduct searches without judicial oversight.
               This is America?
               And understand that the so-called "War on Terrorism" is only two
               months old. This is just the beginning. What's still to come?
               In previous wars, citizens were imprisoned for speaking out against the
               government, newspapers were closed for protesting the war, private
               publications were censored, and people of foreign ancestry were put in
               concentration camps. We have a lot to look forward to.
               Don't be deceived!
               The press implies that the new civil-liberties invasions will apply only to
               Not true.
               They apply to you, because anyone can be suspected of being a terrorist
               - including you. In fact, the new definition of "suspected terrorist"
               includes people speaking out against government policies.
               And if law-enforcement officials are to decide whose civil liberties will be
               denied, one of them may become convinced you're connected to the
               terrorists in some way, try you in a secret court, sentence you, imprison
               you and even execute you - with no opportunity for you to appeal the
               verdict or your sentence.
               This is America?
               An administration official told The Washington Post "The U.S.
               Constitution doesn't protect anyone hiding and planning acts of violence."
               But what he meant was, "The U.S. Constitution doesn't protect anyone
               we suspect of hiding and planning acts of violence." They don't know
               who's actually guilty until after a civil, public trial - conducted with all the
               traditional rules of evidence. What they have arrogated to themselves is
               the power to decide whether or not you will be protected by the
               This is America?
               If you're not frightened by this, you're simply not paying attention.
               Won't be limited to a few people
               Have you been told that some of these invasions apply only to aliens ñ or
               some other small group of people?
               Don't be reassured. When has any invasion of liberty not been expanded
               to cover all people eventually?
               The clearly unconstitutional RICO laws were supposed to apply only to
               organized crime - but hardly a single Mafia kingpin has been prosecuted
               using RICO, while abortion protestors and stockbrokers have been jailed
               by these laws. The clearly unconstitutional asset-forfeiture laws were
               only to nab big-time drug dealers, but all across America the property of
               innocent people has been seized.
               It's only a matter of time until every new oppression applies to all
               Why this happened
               I said that many of those protesting these invasions brought this on
               themselves. How?
               It's very simple.
               Attorney General John Ashcroft justified the unconstitutional police-state
               tactics by saying, "I think it's important to understand that we are at war
               And there you have it. As Randolph Bourne said, "War is the health of
               the state." Once you grant the government war-making powers, you grant
               the politicians the power to do anything they want. After all, you can't put
               your own personal liberty ahead of the good of the Fatherland, can you?
               Congress didn't declare war. There were none of the usual pre-war
               negotiations to try to avoid going to war. We're not even at war with any
               specific nation. But just utter the magic word "war" and all your rights
               can be stolen from you.
               So, if you hollered for war, you hollered to have your rights taken away
               from you.
               Who gave your rights away? You did - if you supported the idea that the
               politicians should be free to do anything they want to satisfy a national
               lust for revenge.
               Isn't it time to start taking back your liberty?
               Harry Browne
               Harry Browne, Libertarian presidential candidate in the 2000 election,
               is the director of public policy at the American Liberty Foundation.
               More of his articles can be read at, and his books
               are available at
               © 2001

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