The George W. Bush administration responded to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon with an assault on U.S. civil liberty that Bush justified in the name of the “war on terror.” The government assured us that the draconian measures apply only to “terrorists.” The word terrorist, however, was not defined. The government claimed the discretionary power to decide who is a terrorist without having to present evidence or charges in a court of law.
Frankly, the Bush administration’s policy evades any notion of procedural due process of law. Administration assurances that harsh treatment is reserved only for terrorists is meaningless when the threshold process for determining who is and who is not a terrorist depends on executive discretion that is not subject to review. Substantive rights are useless without the procedural rights to enforce them.
Terrorist legislation and executive assertions created a basis upon which federal authorities claimed they were free to suspend suspects’ civil liberties in order to defend Americans from terrorism. Only after civil liberties groups and federal courts challenged some of the unconstitutional laws and procedures did realization spread that the Bush administration’s assault on the Bill of Rights is a greater threat to Americans than are terrorists.
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