By John & Nisha Whitehead, the Rutherford Institute | May 10, 2023
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? Relinquish some of your freedoms in exchange for the elusive promise of non-porous borders?
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
In much the same way that police across the country have been schooled in the art of sidestepping the Constitution, border cops have also been drilled in the art of “anything goes” in the name of national security.
In fact, according to FOIA documents shared with The Intercept, border cops even have a checklist of “possible behaviors” that warrant overriding the Constitution and subjecting individuals—including American citizens—to stops, searches, seizures, interrogations and even arrests.
Are you starting to get the picture yet?
This isn’t about illegal immigrants and border crossings at all.
It’s a test to see how hard “we the people” will fight to hold onto what remains of our freedoms.
If this is a test, we’re failing abysmally.
Then again, we’ve been failing this particular test for a long time now.
Indeed, as journalist Hayes Brown concludes, the United States has a long, dubious history of putting national security before people’s freedoms.
Certainly, it took no time at all for us to forget Benjamin Franklin’s warning that “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
We’ve been going downhill ever since.
By the time 9/11 rolled around, all George W. Bush had to do was claim the country was being invaded by terrorists, and the government was given greater powers to spy, search, detain and arrest American citizens in order to keep America safe.
Barack Obama continued Bush’s trend of undermining the Constitution, going so far as to give the military the power to strip Americans of their constitutional rights, label them extremists, and detain them indefinitely without trial, all in the name of keeping America safe.
Then Donald Trump claimed the only way to keep America safe from dangerous immigrants was to build an expensive border wall, expand the reach of border patrol, and empower the military to “assist” with border control.
Now you have Joe Biden sending thousands of active-duty troops to the southern border in order to deal with what they anticipate could be more than 10,000 illegal crossings per day.
It’s a state of affairs perfectly timed to stir up, divide and distract the populace, while expanding the reach of the police state under our noses.
Once the government acquires—and uses—additional powers (to spy on its citizens, to carry out surveillance, to transform its police forces into extensions of the police, to seize taxpayer funds, to wage endless wars, to censor and silence dissidents, to identify potential troublemakers, to detain citizens without due process), it does not voluntarily relinquish them.
It’s time “we the people” put our house in order.
The looming problem is not so much that the U.S. is being invaded by hostile forces at the border, but rather that the U.S. Constitution is under assault from within by a power-hungry cabal at the highest levels of power.
As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, the government is now the greatest threat to our safety, and there’s no border wall big enough to protect us from these ruffians in our midst.
John W. Whitehead is a Constitutional attorney and founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His most recent books are the best-selling Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the award-winning A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, and a debut dystopian fiction novel, The Erik Blair Diaries. Whitehead can be contacted at email@example.com. Nisha Whitehead is the Executive Director of The Rutherford Institute. Information about The Rutherford Institute is available at www.rutherford.org.
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