The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Opinion

May 21, 2012

Other Views: When is a right a right?

The framers of the U.S. Constitution were admirably clear, or so they and we thought, when they wrote in the Fifth Amendment that no person shall “be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

Not that the framers didn’t specify that the person had to be a U.S. citizen. And by “due process” they meant the right to be formally charged, to challenge those charges before a judge and to have defense counsel present.

The framers thought that right important enough that in the 14th Amendment they reiterated that this protection also applied to the states, which also could not “deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

Clear enough? Perhaps not.

The U.S. House on Friday affirmed the government’s power to detain indefinitely in military custody suspected terrorists without charge or trial. All that is required is suspicion.

Note that this provision does away with the presumption of innocence, and if the detainee is deemed an “illegal combatant,” the prisoner is 90 percent of the way toward being declared guilty without the technicality of a trial.

A coalition of Democrats and tea party-movement Republicans, skeptical about the ever-increasing power of a central government, failed to roll back that power, their amendment losing by the dismaying margin of 238-182.

The House reaffirmed a provision in a defense bill that President Barack Obama signed on Dec. 31. In a signing statement, Obama wrote, “My administration will not authorize indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation.”

That’s a commendable notion and one we hope he sticks to, but a right is not truly a right when someone else gets to decide when and whether that right should apply.

The Associated Press noted, “In a face-saving move, the House voted 243-173 Friday for an amendment that reaffirms Americans’ constitutional rights.”

It says something about our current crop of lawmakers that 173 of them would vote “no” on the Bill of Rights. Maybe for the past 220 or so years, the Constitution wasn’t as clear as we thought it was.

Scripps Howard News Service

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Opinion
  • Our View.jpg Our View: No need for No. 9

    “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended so that the people shall be secure in their electronic communications and data from unreasonable searches and seizures as they are now likewise secure in their persons, homes, papers and effects?”

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Your View: ‘Right to Farm’ is wrong

    On Aug. 5, voters will be asked to make a decision about Amendment 1.

    July 29, 2014

  • Your View: No on Amendment 7

    The Missouri Department of Transportation is wanting more money through a three-quarter-cent addition to the sales tax. Consider one example of how it spends your money.

    July 29, 2014

  • Your View: Bad way to get revenue

    I received two fliers through the mail today asking me to vote “yes” on Amendment 7, which would add a three-quarter-cent tax to Missouri’s sales tax to help maintain roads and bridges.

    July 29, 2014

  • Other Views Other Views: Symptom of bad policy

    The Obama administration continues to be surprised and shocked when its policies of good intentions suddenly meet the hard reality of unintended consequences.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Rebecca French Smith, guest columnist: Amendment 1: Farmers are 'boots on the ground'

    Take a moment and ask yourself who was the last person in your family to farm.

    July 28, 2014

  • Your View; Makes no sense

    Chess was never my game. It’s too complicated.

    July 28, 2014

  • Your View: Time value of money

     I was shaking my head along with Anson Burlingame (“Much has changed in U.S. over 14 years,” Globe, July 22), then he offered his readers a chance: “Go ahead — take your pick.”

    July 28, 2014

  • Your View: Boiling a frog

    We voters are now being urged to vote on Aug. 5 for Amendment 7 “to fix our roads, highways and bridges.”

    July 28, 2014

  • Our view: 'Yes' on 7

    Opponents of Amendment 7 say this: “Missouri families are already hard pressed to pay their bills during this period of slow economic recovery.”

    July 26, 2014

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Given that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that electronic devices and communications are protected from searches and seizure without a warrant, do you think Missouri needs Amendment 9 added to its constitution?

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