Morals are something everyone has, whether they are religion oriented or just promises made to ones self over time, built off of their own set of beliefs. This is nothing abnormal for any citizen of the land of the free; after all it is what the forefathers of this country built it upon. However, if these rights and liberties are continually taken for granted it is plausible that they could slowly slip out of grasp. Any leniency or allowance of exceptions to any of the rights granted by this country’s Constitution is most certainly an unacceptable action. Although losing such rights may seem implausible and improbable at this point, it may not be as far-fetched as you might think.
Self v. Self
Usually when thinking about the loss of any of the rights granted under the Constitution the first thing that generally comes to mind is those rights being taken away by enemies of the country. The stereotypical thought about losing any constitutional granted rights is the possibility of the country being overcome by a terrorist plot, which despises our freedom of life.
However this country might be more of a threat on its own when it comes to the rights of the people, than any terrorist group may ever become. Throughout the country time is persistently spent focusing on how foreign nations are trying to tear down the country, not that this should be allowed to slip under the radar without being detected. Nevertheless, if half the amount of time spent watching opposing countries was directed towards watching the moves made within this country it may just be realized that this country is placing more of a burden on the rights of its people than any country in opposition to the United States.
Racial profiling during traffic stops has gotten the most time in the spotlight as of late, when it comes to the violation of American’s rights. Racial profiling is a violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The Fourth Amendment protects from unreasonable searches and seizures. Therefore in order for an officer to make a traffic stop they must have reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause. So if they pulled a person over with suspicion provoked by their race or ethnicity it would be a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Rediker 2007)
Racial profiling during traffic stops has definitely received the most attention when it comes to this controversy of the infringement of American’s rights. This is for good reason though; the majority of people only come in contact with the police through small violations such as driving infractions. Plus the police use basic traffic stops to help them get leadoffs to bigger, more extravagant crimes. (Forde-Mazrui, 2007)
While African Americans have received most of the brunt of racial profiling during traffic stops placed on them, the expression “driving while black” has become a term to describe this controversy. The majority of the country has begun to take notice of this, with 53 percent of Americans believing that racial profiling is widespread. Sydejko, 2007) So over half of the country believes that there is an issue here, however you have to wonder just how much that number would change if everyone were to be informed on some of the actions that are being taken by the government throughout the country.
For instance how many people do you think really know that adoption of racial profiling by state governments is something that is being done and has been made completely legal. This is something that is used in Florida, where the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles presents police departments with a drug-courier description. Suspicion was to be made by officers if they were to observe anyone who fit into descriptions such as the following. This would include anyone who might be following traffic laws in a “scrupulously” manor, people “wearing lots of gold, or who do not ‘fit the vehicle’, as well as ethnic groups associated with the drug trade.” In other words, if they were to see someone abiding the traffic laws to a t, wearing lots of jewelry, driving a car that a certain officer felt did not ‘fit” them and they were of ethnic decent; then more likely than not they were supposedly hiding something.( Sydejko, 2007)
This sounds like complete ignorance, not to mention an infringement on anyone’s rights who were to be pulled over under this procedure. As aforementioned an officer must be able to display reasonable articulable suspicion or probable cause for searches and seizures. A police stop is a temporary seizure therefore in order to pull a car over they must have reason. Car type, jewelry preference and ethnicity are not legible reasons. However, the officer now has been provided reason based on the drug-courier profile that was given to them. However, it does seem that The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor vehicles has violated the Fourth Amendment by giving the police the right to stop people fitting such descriptions.
Fourth Amendment Legislation
Although they get the most attention traffic stops are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to limiting American’s Fourth Amendment rights. The first step in altering these rights can be traced back to 1968. The Supreme Court Case Terry v. Ohio decided that it was legal for an officer to detain and search a person without a warrant if the officer were acting on a reasonable belief that the person were to be armed and dangerous.(Bosson 2006)
Terry v. Ohio which was made with good intention, the safety of our officers, has become manipulated over the past 40 years. Terry v. Ohio has been used as a stepping stone for other infractions of Fourth Amendment rights such as the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles drug-courier profile mentioned above. As our rights granted by the Fourth Amendment are altered or taken away a little bit at a time things go fairly unnoticed. But eventually a point is going to come where people begin to take notice of how far our rights have slipped out of our grasp.
A good example of this would be the USA Patriot Act which was passed following the attacks of September 11th. The Patriot Act is a compilation of changes to the federal procedures used when dealing with criminals. This act has made it easier for the government to acquire wire taps on electronic devices as well as using information from internet, cable and telephone companies as documented evidence against people, most of whom are immigrants.(Siggins, 2002)
The USA Patriot Act was in reaction to the terror placed upon our country after the terrorist attacks of 9-11. If the feeling of insecurity across the country was not enough to show you just how fearful the country became then the statistics will. Prior to the attacks of 9-11 81% of American’s disapproved of racial profiling. Weeks after 9-11 however 58% of Americans “backed more intensive security checks for Arabs, including those who are United States citizens”.(Sydejko, 2007) Even more shocking is the fact that after the attacks 66% of whites supported the ethnic profiling of people who look to be of middle-eastern decent while 71% of African-Americans approved of the same profiling. It is astonishing to see that African-American’s could justify such profiling after having put up a fight against racial profiling for themselves for so long. What this shows is how the United States has developed a “moral conflict” between balancing out freedom on one side of the scale and security on the opposite.(Sydejko, 2007)
Land of the Free…..
As previously mentioned terrorists hate our way of life and feel as though it is a threat to their way of living. Their ultimate goal is to restrict the rights and liberties of this country as much as possible. As this country’s government continues to invade these rights and liberties a little at a time terrorists are getting just what they want, a loss of American’s rights which are reasoned by a sense of insecurity across the nation. Arab’s have been primarily affected by racial profiling since 9-11 whether it is from hate crimes committed by citizens or repeated detainment and questioning. Arab’s of the United States are the only ones currently being terrorized on American soil. They are constantly being questioned with the average detainment lasting eighty days.(Sydejko, 2007)
Focusing on the Arabs within this country is only working to develop a false sense of security for the non-Arab people of the United States. This is making the government look good to an extent seeing how 58% of the population has backed more intensive security checks for Arabs including those of who are United States citizens. This looks good to the American citizens as they feel as though the country is working effectively by addressing the people’s requests. This is only looking at half of the picture though as this is not only what the American people want but also what terrorist’s desire. (Sydejko, 2007)
Look at just the few issues discussed within this paper: the ability for the government to legally set wiretaps, the conduction of searches and seizures based solely on someone’s appearance and the ethnic profiling of citizens for questioning and detainment. The fact that any of these things can be done, shows that a leniency has been placed on the countries Fourth Amendment rights. This in fact is the goal that terrorists seek, to take away the symbol of our country, constitutional liberty. Essentially what this means is that it is of high importance for this country to keep the values instated within it prior to the attacks of 9-11. This country has sought war in order to maintain the freedoms and liberty that it was built upon. If these ideologies are abandoned by the American government and the American people then the United States has lost the war on their own having lost site of what is moral and what is not.
The founding fathers of this country built it with purpose. It is amazing to see a constitution hold up against the test of time for so long. Withstanding 220 years is quite the feat but if it has held up this long then there is no reason for it not to withstand another 220. What better way to end than with words of wisdom from one of those founding fathers who helped this country become what it is today , “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”, Benjamin Franklin. (Guiroa, 2006)
Bosson, B. (2006) Seach and Seizure- The Expansion of Police Powers Under the Fourth Amendment- The us of Force and the Propriety of Police Questioning During a Search. 1 Retrieved 12-5-2007 at www.lexisnexis.com
. Forde-Mazrui, K (2007) Ruling out the Rule of Law 1-2 Retrieved 12-5-2007 from www.lexisnexis.com
Guiroa, A. (2006) Transitional Comparative Analysis of Blancing competing Interests in Counter-Terrorism, 1 Retrieved 12-5-2007, from www.lexisnexis.com.
Rediker, R. (2007) Constitutional Law – “The Knock and Announce” Rule Becomes Obsolete, 1 Retrieved 12-6-2007 from www.lexisnexis.com
Siggins, P. (2002) Racial Profiling in an Age of Terrorism, 2-4. Retrieved 9-24-2007 from www.scu.edu/publications
Sydejko, R. (2007) International influence on Democracy: How Terrorism Exploited a Deteriorating Fourth Amendment, 11, 16-18. Retrieved 12-6-2007, from www.lexisnexis.com.