This post explains the liberties guaranteed in the Bill of Rights – the first 10 amendments to the United States Constitution – and provides a scorecard on the extent of the loss of each right.
The 1st Amendment protects speech, religion, assembly and the press:
"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."
The Supreme Court has also interpreted the First Amendment as protecting freedom of association. However, the government is arresting those speaking out … and violently crushing peaceful assemblies which attempt to petition the government for redress.
There are also enacted laws allowing the secret service to arrest anyone protesting near the president or other designated folks. Mass spying by the NSA violates our freedom of association.
For example, the following actions may get an American citizen living on U.S. soil labeled as a “suspected terrorist” today:
- Complaining about the taste of your tap water
- Being young (if you live near a battle zone, you are fair game)
- Using social media
- Reporting or doing journalism
- Having “strange odors” or “bright colored stains on clothes”
- Speaking out against government policies
- Protesting anything
- Questioning war
- Criticizing the government’s targeting of innocent civilians with drones
- Asking questions about pollution (even at a public Congressional hearing?)
- Paying cash at an Internet cafe
- and more
The 5th Amendment addresses due process of law, eminent domain, double jeopardy and grand jury:
"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 for the same offense 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."
But the American government has shredded the 5th Amendment by subjecting us to indefinite detentionand taking away our due process rights.
The 6th Amendment guarantees the right to hear the criminal charges levied against us and to be able to confront the witnesses who have testified against us, as well as speedy criminal trials, and a public defender for those who cannot hire an attorney:
"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."
Subjecting people to indefinite detention or assassination obviously violates the 6th Amendment right to a jury trial. In both cases, the defendants is “disposed of” without ever receiving a trial … and often without ever hearing the charges against them.
More and more commonly, the government prosecutes cases based upon “secret evidence” that they don’t show to the defendant … or sometimes even the judge hearing the case.
Secret witnesses are being used in some cases. And sometimes lawyers are not even allowed to read their own briefs. Indeed, even the laws themselves are now starting to be kept secret.
The 10th Amendment provides that powers not specifically given to the Federal government are reserved to the states or individual:
"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."
Today, most Americans believe that the government is threatening – rather than protecting – freedom. We’ve become more afraid of our government than of terrorists, and believe that the government is no longer acting with the “consent of the governed“.
And the federal government is trampling the separation of powers by stepping on the toes of the states and the people.