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Bill Of Rights

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Bill Of Rights Essay, Research Paper

Bill of Rights

How many rights do you have? You should check, because it might not be

as many today as it was a few years ago, or even a few months ago. Some

people I talk to are not concerned that police will execute a search

warrant without knocking or that they set up roadblocks and stop and

interrogate innocent citizens. They do not regard these as great

infringements on their rights. But when you put current events together,

there is information that may be surprising to people who have not yet been

concerned: The amount of the Bill of Rights that is under attack is

alarming.

Let’s take a look at the Bill of Rights and see which aspects are

being pushed on or threatened. The point here is not the degree of each

attack or its rightness or wrongness, but the sheer number of rights that

are under attack.

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or

prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech,

or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to

petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

ESTABLISHING RELIGION: While campaigning for his first term, George

Bush said “I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor

should they be considered patriots.” Bush has not retracted, commented on,

or clarified this statement, in spite of requests to do so. According to

Bush, this is one nation under God. And apparently if you are not within

Bush’s religious beliefs, you are not a citizen. Federal, state, and local

governments also promote a particular religion (or, occasionally,

religions) by spending public money on religious displays.

FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION: Robert Newmeyer and Glenn Braunstein were jailed

in 1988 for refusing to stand in respect for a judge. Braunstein says the

tradition of rising in court started decades ago when judges entered

carrying Bibles. Since judges no longer carry Bibles, Braunstein says there

is no reason to stand — and his Bible tells him to honor no other God. For

this religious practice, Newmeyer and Braunstein were jailed and are now

suing.

FREE SPEECH: We find that technology has given the government an excuse to

interfere with free speech. Claiming that radio frequencies are a limited

resource, the government tells broadcasters what to say (such as news and

public and local service programming) and what not to say (obscenity, as

defined by the Federal Communications Commission [FCC]). The FCC is

investigating Boston PBS station WGBH-TV for broadcasting photographs from

the Mapplethorpe exhibit.

FREE SPEECH: There are also laws to limit political statements and

contributions to political activities. In 1985, the Michigan Chamber of

Commerce wanted to take out an advertisement supporting a candidate in the

state house of representatives. But a 1976 Michigan law prohibits a

corporation from using its general treasury funds to make independent

expenditures in a political campaign. In March, the Supreme Court upheld

that law. According to dissenting Justice Kennedy, it is now a felony in

Michigan for the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties Union, or the

Chamber of Commerce to advise the public how a candidate voted on issues of

urgent concern to their members.

FREE PRESS: As in speech, technology has provided another excuse for

government intrusion in the press. If you distribute a magazine

electronically and do not print copies, the government doesn’t consider you

a press and does not give you the same protections courts have extended to

printed news. The equipment used to publish Phrack, a worldwide electronic

magazine about phones and hacking, was confiscated after publishing a

document copied from a Bell South computer entitled “A Bell South Standard

Practice (BSP) 660-225-104SV Control Office Administration of Enhanced 911

Services for Special Services and Major Account Centers, March, 1988.” All

of the information in this document was publicly available from Bell South

in other documents. The government has not alleged that the publisher of

Phrack, Craig Neidorf, was involved with or participated in the copying of

the document. Also, the person who copied this document from telephone

company computers placed a copy on a bulletin board run by Rich Andrews.

Andrews forwarded a copy to AT&T officials and cooperated with authorities

fully. In return, the Secret Service (SS) confiscated Andrews’ computer

along with all the mail and data that were on it. Andrews was not charged

with any crime.

FREE PRESS: In another incident that would be comical if it were not true,

on March 1 the SS ransacked the offices of Steve Jackson Games (SJG);

irreparably damaged property; and confiscated three computers, two laser

printers, several hard disks, and many boxes of paper and floppy disks. The

target of the SS operation was to seize all copies of a game of fiction

called GURPS Cyberpunk. The Cyberpunk game contains fictitious break-ins in

a futuristic world, with no technical information of actual use with real

computers, nor is it played on computers. The SS never filed any charges

against SJG but still refused to return confiscated property.

PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY: The right to assemble peaceably is no longer free –

you have to get a permit. Even that is not enough; some officials have to

be sued before they realize their reasons for denying a permit are not

Constitutional.

PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY: In Alexandria, Virginia, there is a law that prohibits

people from loitering for more than seven minutes and exchanging small

objects. Punishment is two years in jail. Consider the scene in jail:

“What’d you do?” “I was waiting at a bus stop and gave a guy a cigarette.”

This is not an impossible occurrence: In Pittsburgh, Eugene Tyler, 15, has

been ordered away from bus stops by police officers. Sherman Jones, also 15,

was accosted with a police officer’s hands around his neck after putting

the last bit of pizza crust into his mouth. The police suspected him of

hiding drugs.

PETITION FOR REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES: Rounding out the attacks on the first

amendment, there is a sword hanging over the right to petition for redress

of grievances. House Resolution 4079, the National Drug and Crime Emergency

Act, tries to “modify” the right to habeas corpus. It sets time limits on

the right of people in custody to petition for redress and also limits the

courts in which such an appeal may be heard.

Amendment II

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,

the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS: This amendment is so commonly challenged that the

movement has its own name: gun control. Legislation banning various types

of weapons is supported with the claim that the weapons are not for

“legitimate” sporting purposes. This is a perversion of the right to bear

arms for two reasons. First, the basis of freedom is not that permission to

do legitimate things is granted to the people, but rather that the

government is empowered to do a limited number of legitimate things –

everything else people are free to do; they do not need to justify their

choices. Second, should the need for defense arise, it will not be hordes

of deer that the security of a free state needs to be defended from.

Defense would be needed against humans, whether external invaders or

internal oppressors. It is an unfortunate fact of life that the guns that

would be needed to defend the security of a state are guns to attack people,

not guns for sporting purposes.

Firearms regulations also empower local officials, such as police chiefs,

to grant or deny permits. This results in towns where only friends of

people in the right places are granted permits, or towns where women are

generally denied the right to carry a weapon for self-defense.

Amendment III

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the

consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed

by law.

QUARTERING SOLDIERS: This amendment is fairly clean so far, but it is not

entirely safe. Recently, 200 troops in camouflage dress with M-16s and

helicopters swept through Kings Ridge National Forest in Humboldt County,

California. In the process of searching for marijuana plants for four days,

soldiers assaulted people on private land with M-16s and barred them from

their own property. This might not be a direct hit on the third amendment,

but the disregard for private property is uncomfortably close.

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and

effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,

and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or

affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the

persons or things to be seized.

RIGHT TO BE SECURE IN PERSONS, HOUSES, PAPERS AND EFFECTS AGAINST

UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES: The RICO law is making a mockery of the

right to be secure from seizure. Entire stores of books or videotapes have

been confiscated based upon the presence of some sexually explicit items.

Bars, restaurants, or houses are taken from the owners because employees or

tenants sold drugs. In Volusia County, Florida, Sheriff Robert Vogel and

his officers stop automobiles for contrived violations. If large amounts of

cash are found, the police confiscate it on the PRESUMPTION that it is drug

money — even if there is no other evidence and no charges are filed

against the car’s occupants. The victims can get their money back only if

they prove the money was obtained legally. One couple got their money back

by proving it was an insurance settlement. Two other men who tried to get

their two thousand dollars back were denied by the Florida courts.

RIGHT TO BE SECURE IN PERSONS, HOUSES, PAPERS AND EFFECTS AGAINST

UNREASONABLE SEARCHES AND SEIZURES: A new law goes into effect in Oklahoma

on January 1, 1991. All property, real and personal, is taxable, and

citizens are required to list all their personal property for tax assessors,

including household furniture, gold and silver plate, musical instruments,

watches, jewelry, and personal, private, or professional libraries. If a

citizen refuses to list their property or is suspected of not listing

something, the law directs the assessor to visit and enter the premises,

getting a search warrant if necessary. Being required to tell the state

everything you own is not being secure in one’s home and effects.

NO WARRANTS SHALL ISSUE, BUT UPON PROBABLE CAUSE, SUPPORTED BY OATH OR

AFFIRMATION:

As a supporting oath or affirmation, reports of anonymous informants are

accepted. This practice has been condoned by the Supreme Court.

PARTICULARLY DESCRIBING THE PLACE TO BE SEARCHED AND PERSONS OR THINGS TO

BE SEIZED: Today’s warrants do not particularly describe the things to be

seized — they list things that might be present. For example, if police

are making a drug raid, they will list weapons as things to be searched for

and seized. This is done not because the police know of any weapons and can

particularly describe them, but because they allege people with drugs often

have weapons.

Both of the above apply to the warrant the Hudson, New Hampshire, police

used when they broke down Bruce Lavoie’s door at 5 a.m. with guns drawn and

shot and killed him. The warrant claimed information from an anonymous

informant, and it said, among other things, that guns were to be seized.

The mention of guns in the warrant was used as reason to enter with guns

drawn. Bruce Lavoie had no guns. Bruce Lavoie was not secure from

unreasonable search and seizure — nor is anybody else.

Other infringements on the fourth amendment include roadblocks and the

Boston Police detention of people based on colors they are wearing

(supposedly indicating gang membership). And in Pittsburgh again, Eugene

Tyler was once searched because he was wearing sweat pants and a plaid

shirt — police told him they heard many drug dealers at that time were

wearing sweat pants and plaid shirts.

Amendment V

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 to the same offence 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.

INDICTMENT OF A GRAND JURY: Kevin Bjornson has been proprietor of Hydro-

Tech for nearly a decade and is a leading authority on hydroponic

technology and cultivation. On October 26, 1989, both locations of Hydro-

Tech were raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration. National Drug

Control Policy Director William Bennett has declared that some indoor

lighting and hydroponic equipment is purchased by marijuana growers, so

retailers and wholesalers of such equipment are drug profiteers and co-

conspirators. Bjornson was not charged with any crime, nor subpoenaed,

issued a warrant, or arrested. No illegal substances were found on his

premises. Federal officials were unable to convince grand juries to indict

Bjornson. By February, they had called scores of witnesses and recalled

many two or three times, but none of the grand juries they convened decided

there was reason to criminally prosecute Bjornson. In spite of that, as of

March, his bank accounts were still frozen and none of the inventories or

records had been returned. Grand juries refused to indict Bjornson, but the

government is still penalizing him.

TWICE PUT IN JEOPARDY OF LIFE OR LIMB: Members of the McMartin family in

California have been tried two or three times for child abuse. Anthony

Barnaby was tried for murder (without evidence linking him to the crime)

three times before New Hampshire let him go.

COMPELLED TO BE A WITNESS AGAINST HIMSELF: Oliver North was forced to

testify against himself. Congress granted him immunity from having anything

he said to them being used as evidence against him, and then they required

him to talk. After he did so, what he said was used to find other evidence

which was used against him. The courts also play games where you can be

required to testify against yourself if you testify at all.

COMPELLED TO BE A WITNESS AGAINST HIMSELF: In the New York Central Park

assault case, three people were found guilty of assault. But there was no

physical evidence linking them to the crime; semen did not match any of the

defendants. The only evidence the state had was confessions. To obtain

these confessions, the police questioned a 15-year old without a parent

present — which is illegal under New York state law. Police also refused

to let the subject’s Big Brother, an attorney for the Federal government,

see him during questioning. Police screamed “You better tell us what we

want to hear and cooperate or you are going to jail,” at 14-year-old Antron

McCray, according to Bobby McCray, his father. Antron McCray “confessed”

after his father told him to, so that police would release him. These

people were coerced into bearing witness against themselves, and those

confessions were used to convict them.

COMPELLED TO BE A WITNESS AGAINST HIMSELF: Your answers to Census questions

are required by law, with a $100 penalty for each question not answered.

But people have been evicted for giving honest Census answers. According to

the General Accounting Office, one of the most frequent ways city

governments use census information is to detect illegal two-family

dwellings. This has happened in Montgomery County, Maryland; Pullman,

Washington; and Long Island, New York. The August 8, 1989, Wall Street

Journal reports this and other ways Census answers have been used against

the answerers.

COMPELLED TO BE A WITNESS AGAINST HIMSELF: Drug tests are being required

from more and more people, even when there is no probable cause, no

accident, and no suspicion of drug use. Requiring people to take drug tests

compels them to provide evidence against themselves.

DEPRIVED OF LIFE, LIBERTY, OR PROPERTY WITHOUT DUE PROCESS OF LAW: This

clause is violated on each of the items life, liberty, and property.

Incidents including such violations are described elsewhere in this article.

Here are two more: On March 26, 1987, in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, Jeffrey

Miles was killed by police officer John Rucker, who was looking for a

suspected drug dealer. Rucker had been sent to the wrong house; Miles was

not wanted by police. He received no due process. In Detroit, $4,834 was

seized from a grocery store after dogs detected traces of cocaine on three

one-dollar bills in a cash register.

PRIVATE PROPERTY TAKEN FOR PUBLIC USE WITHOUT JUST COMPENSATION: RICO is

shredding this aspect of the Bill of Rights. The money confiscated by

Sheriff Vogel goes directly into Vogel’s budget; it is not regulated by the

legislature. Federal and local governments seize and auction boats,

buildings, and other property. Under RICO, the government is seizing

property without due process. The victims are required to prove not only

that they are not guilty of a crime, but that they are entitled to their

property. Otherwise, the government auctions off the property and keeps the

proceeds.

Amendment VI

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy

and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein

the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been

previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause

of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have

compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in his favor, and to have the

assistance of counsel for his defence.

THE RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL: Surprisingly, the right to a public

trial is under attack. When Marion Barry was being tried, the prosecution

attempted to bar Louis Farrakhan and George Stallings from the gallery.

This request was based on an allegation that they would send silent and

“impermissible messages” to the jurors. The judge initially granted this

request. One might argue that the whole point of a public trial is to send

a message to all the participants: The message is that the public is

watching; the trial had better be fair.

BY AN IMPARTIAL JURY: The government does not even honor the right to trial

by an impartial jury. US District Judge Edward Rafeedie is investigating

improper influence on jurors by US marshals in the Enrique Camarena case.

US marshals apparently illegally communicated with jurors during

deliberations.

OF THE STATE AND DISTRICT WHEREIN THE CRIME SHALL HAVE BEEN COMMITTED: This

is incredible, but Manuel Noriega is being tried so far away from the place

where he is alleged to have committed crimes that the United States had to

invade another country and overturn a government to get him. Nor is this a

unique occurrence; in a matter separate from the Camarena case, Judge

Rafeedie was asked to dismiss charges against Mexican gynecologist Dr.

Humberto Alvarez Machain on the grounds that the doctor was illegally

abducted from his Guadalajara office in April and turned over to US

authorities.

TO BE INFORMED OF THE NATURE AND CAUSE OF THE ACCUSATION: Steve Jackson

Games, nearly put out of business by the raid described previously, has

been stonewalled by the SS. “For the past month or so these guys have been

insisting the book wasn’t the target of the raid, but they don’t say what

the target was, or why they were critical of the book, or why they won’t

give it back,” Steve Jackson says. “They have repeatedly denied we’re

targets but don’t explain why we’ve been made victims.” Attorneys for SJG

tried to find out the basis for the search warrant that led to the raid on

SJG. But the application for that warrant was sealed by order of the court

and remained sealed at last report, in July. Not only has the SS taken

property and nearly destroyed a publisher, it will not even explain the

nature and cause of the accusations that led to the raid.

TO BE CONFRONTED WITH THE WITNESSES AGAINST HIM: The courts are beginning

to play fast and loose with the right to confront witnesses. Watch out for

anonymous witnesses and videotaped testimony.

TO HAVE COMPULSORY PROCESS FOR OBTAINING WITNESSES: Ronald Reagan resisted

submitting to subpoena and answering questions about Irangate, claiming

matters of national security and executive privilege. A judge had to

dismiss some charges against Irangate participants because the government

refused to provide information subpoenaed by the defendants. And one

wonders if the government would go to the same lengths to obtain witnesses

for Manuel Noriega as it did to capture him.

TO HAVE THE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL: The right to assistance of counsel took

a hit recently. Connecticut Judge Joseph Sylvester is refusing to assign

public defenders to people ACCUSED of drug-related crimes, including drunk

driving.

TO HAVE THE ASSISTANCE OF COUNSEL: RICO is also affecting the right to have

the assistance of counsel. The government confiscates the money of an

accused person, which leaves them unable to hire attorneys. The IRS has

served summonses nationwide to defense attorneys, demanding the names of

clients who paid cash for fees exceeding $10,000.

Amendment VII

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty

dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried

by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States,

than according to the rules of common law.

RIGHT OF TRIAL BY JURY IN SUITS AT COMMON LAW: This is a simple right; so

far the government has not felt threatened by it and has not made attacks

on it that I am aware of. This is our only remaining safe haven in the Bill

of Rights.

Amendment VIII

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor

cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

EXCESSIVE BAIL AND FINES: Tallahatchie County in Mississippi charges ten

dollars a day to each person who spends time in the jail, regardless of the

length of stay or the outcome of their trial. This means innocent people

are forced to pay. Marvin Willis was stuck in jail for 90 days trying to

raise $2,500 bail on an assault charge. But after he made that bail, he was

kept imprisoned because he could not pay the $900 rent Tallahatchie

demanded. Nine former inmates are suing the county for this practice.

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: House Resolution 4079 sticks its nose in

here too: “… a Federal court shall not hold prison or jail crowding

unconstitutional under the eighth amendment except to the extent that an

individual plaintiff inmate proves that the crowding causes the infliction

of cruel and unusual punishment of that inmate.”

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENTS: A life sentence for selling a quarter of a

gram of cocaine for $20 — that is what Ricky Isom was sentenced to in

February in Cobb County, Georgia. It was Isom’s second conviction in two

years, and state law imposes a mandatory sentence. Even the judge

pronouncing the sentence thinks it is cruel; Judge Tom Cauthorn expressed

grave reservations before sentencing Isom and Douglas Rucks (convicted of

selling 3.5 grams of cocaine in a separate but similar case). Judge

Cauthorn called the sentences “Draconian.”

Amendment IX

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be

construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

OTHER RIGHTS RETAINED BY THE PEOPLE: This amendment is so weak today that I

will ask not what infringements there are on it but rather what exercise of

it exists at all? What law can you appeal to a court to find you not guilty

of violating because the law denies a right retained by you?

Amendment X

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor

prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or

to the people.

POWERS RESERVED TO THE STATES OR THE PEOPLE: This amendment is also weak,

although it is not so nonexistent as the ninth amendment. But few states

set their own speed limits or drinking age limits. Today, we mostly think

of this country as the — singular — United States, rather than a

collection of states. This concentration of power detaches laws from the

desires of people — and even of states. House Resolution 4079 crops up

again here — it uses financial incentives to get states to set specific

penalties for certain crimes. Making their own laws certainly must be

considered a right of the states, and this right is being infringed upon.

Out of ten amendments, nine are under attack, most of them under multiple

attacks of different natures, and some of them under a barrage. If this

much of the Bill of Rights is threatened, how can you be sure your rights

are safe? A right has to be there when you need it. Like insurance, you

cannot afford to wait until you need it and then set about procuring it or

ensuring it is available. Assurance must be made in advance.

The bottom line here is that your rights are not safe. You do not know when

one of your rights will be violated. A number of rights protect accused

persons, and you may think it is not important to protect the rights of

criminals. But if a right is not there for people accused of crimes, it

will not be there when you need it. With the Bill of Rights in the sad

condition described above, nobody can be confident they will be able to

exercise the rights to which they are justly entitled. To preserve our

rights for ourselves in the future, we must defend them for everybody today.

.

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