Danger Within: The Government Is Turning America Into a Constitution-Free Zone

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by John W. Whitehead, Rutherford Institute:

“There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”—James Madison

How far would you really go to secure the nation’s borders in the so-called name of national security?

Would you give the government limitless amounts of money? Surround the entire country with concrete walls and barbed wire? Erect a high-tech, virtual wall of AI-powered surveillance cameras and drones that does a better job of imprisoning those within its boundaries than keeping intruders out? Empower border police to trample on the rights of anyone who crosses their path, including legal citizens?

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Relinquish some of your freedoms in exchange for the elusive promise of non-porous borders? Submit to a national ID card that allows the government to target individuals and groups as it chooses in order to identify those who do not “belong”? Turn a blind eye to private prisons and detainment camps that profit off the forced labor of its detainees?

Would you turn your backs on every constitutional principle for which our founders fought and died in exchange for empty campaign promises of elusive safety by fast-talking politicians?

This is the devil’s bargain that the U.S. government demands of its people.

These devilish deals have been foisted upon “we the people” before.

Every decade or so, the government makes the case for expanding its wartime powers and curtailing the citizenry’s freedom—in the war on terrorism, war on drugs, war on communism, war on foreigners, war on extremism, war on dissidents, war on peace activists, war on anti-government speech, etc.—all for the sake of national security, of course, and as expected, the American people fall in line.

Increasingly, the government wants us to buy into the fiction that its war on illegal immigrants is so necessary for national security that we should be grateful when roving bands of border patrol agents, flexing their muscles far beyond the nation’s borders, exercise their right to disregard the Constitution at every turn.

Except these border patrol cops aren’t just disregarding the Constitution.

They’re trampling all over the Constitution, especially the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits the government from carrying out egregious warrantless searches and seizures without probable cause.

As part of the government’s so-called crackdown on illegal immigration, drugs and trafficking, border patrol cops are expanding their reach, roaming further afield and subjecting greater numbers of Americans to warrantless searches, ID checkpoints, transportation checks, and even surveillance on private property far beyond the boundaries of the borderlands.

That so-called border, once a thin borderline, is now an ever-thickening band spreading deeper and deeper inside the country.

Consequently, nearly 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, or 197.4 million people) now live within a 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

As journalist Todd Miller explains, that expanding border region now extends “100 miles inland around the United States—along the 2,000-mile southern border, the 4,000-mile northern border and both coasts… This ‘border’ region now covers places where two-thirds of the US population (197.4 million people) live… The ‘border’ has by now devoured the full states of Maine and Florida and much of Michigan.”

So much for walking that golden ribbon of highway.

In this authoritarian reshaping of America, you’d better watch where you roam and ramble, because you could find yourself wandering into the government’s ever-expanding, Constitution-free zone where freedom is off-limits and government agents have all the power and “we the people” have none.

Miller continues:

“In these vast domains, Homeland Security authorities can institute roving patrols with broad, extra-constitutional powers backed by national security, immigration enforcement and drug interdiction mandates. There, the Border Patrol can set up traffic checkpoints and fly surveillance drones overhead with high-powered cameras and radar that can track your movements. Within twenty-five miles of the international boundary, CBP [Customs and Border Protection] agents can enter a person’s private property without a warrant.”

These are definitely not Mayberry cops.

The CBP, with its more than 60,000 Customs and Border Protection employees, supplemented by the National Guard and the U.S. military, is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), a national police force imbued with all the brutality, ineptitude and corruption such a role implies.

Just about every nefarious deed, tactic or thuggish policy advanced by the government today can be traced back to the DHS, its police state mindset, and the billions of dollars it distributes to local police agencies in the form of grants to transform them into extensions of the military.

As Miller points out, the government has turned the nation’s expanding border regions into “a ripe place to experiment with tearing apart the Constitution, a place where not just undocumented border-crossers, but millions of borderland residents have become the targets of continual surveillance.”

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