Since the attacks of 9-11, we have suffered an erosion of freedoms and rights along with an expansion of federal powers. This should cause great concern and alarm but is largely accepted as part of the post 9-11 world.
The Federal government took over airline security screening under the auspices of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This agency issues arbitrary rules, such as take your shoes, belt, and coat off, and no liquids more than 3 ounces. There’s only been one shoe bomber and he got caught. Did I mention his flight originated in Paris? As for the liquid restrictions, they’re based on foiled plans to bring liquid explosives onto US-bound planes from the United Kingdom. Now the TSA is moving forward on implementing full-body scanning in response to the undie-bomber incident on 25 Dec 2009. Experts disagree on if the scanners would have identified the explosives in Abdulmutallab’s girlie panties. More to the point, however, is would screeners have been alert for it before this incident? I suspect not since their training would probably focus on more routine threats, such as guns and knives.
Other erosions of our civil rights have occurred besides airport screening. At least I have the choice to fly or not. But I have no choice as to whether my phone company allows the government to wiretap my phone. This has been a contentious issue, to the point the Senate has taken up hearings regarding holding phone companies liable for violating their customers’ privacy. At the opening of the debate, then Vice President Dick Cheney said, “Those who assist the government in tracking terrorists should not be punished with lawsuits.” So, the end justifies the means. Break the law and make it legal afterwords. Is anyone seeing the chilling comparison to the Nazi consolidation of power after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, 30 January 1933?
One of the problems with the term “sex offender” is there’s no clear definition. Most people think of child predators when they hear the term. But sex offender laws, such as the federal Adam Walsh Act, use a broad brush to, in effect, place a scarlet letter on large portions of US society. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, there are 704,777 registered sex offenders in the US. Whether registries are effective or not is a matter of growing debate.
Regardless of registry effectiveness, politicians continue to use sex offenders for political gain. US Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) has introduced legislation proposing worldwide registration of sex offenders. Just like Michigan’s Repbulican gubernatorial candidates Mike Cox and Michael Bouchard, Lundgren is hoping to cash in on a popular theme. Unfortunately for them, statistics show only 2-4% of predators on social networking sites were convicted sex offenders. On that basis, Rep. Lundgren’s proposed legislation, H.R. 1623, which actually does nothing since the US cannot control other countries’ laws, is pointless. Add to that the fact 18 USC 2423 makes sex tourism illegal for US citizens no matter where it occurs. Obviously, Rep. Lungren is grandstanding with legislation that has no appreciable benefit.
The bigger issue here is the Adam Walsh Act which is under consideration by the US Supreme Court. In essence, the act permits the Federal government to civily commit those it believes need to be retained in “protective custody” beyond the serving of their criminal sentances. Civil commitment, which is practiced in some states, allows officials to keep offenders in custody beyond their criminal sentances under the auspices of protecting the community. In essence, officials continue to incarcerate people on the basis of potential future crimes. There’s no Constitutional basis for this.
Research shows sex offender registries don’t change crime rates. Since more than half of child sex offense cases involve people who know each other, there’s no point to spending as much time and effort on sex offender registries as we are. According to the US Department of Justice, New Jersey spent $555,565 in 1995, but the amount grew to $3.9 million in 2006.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting we throw our youth to the whims and fancies of the deranged. And I recognize the world today, with the Internet and all, is more dangerous than it once was. I just don’t think we should tolerate politicians taking away our freedoms in the name of protecting us or our kids. In case you don’t remember, the Nazi seizure of power had its own innocent beginnings.