Suspect Suspects and the Exploitation of a Crisis

Have you heard? The Boston bombing suspects had guns, but they didn’t have valid licenses to carry in Cambridge, Massachussetts. I’m sure the gun control lobby is already licking its chops over that little tidbit. There are so many things at stake in this crisis.

For one, the bombing suspects, whether guilty or not, both had American citizenship. Yet they are being viewed by the civil government as active enemy combatants. The decision to hold the still living suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, without bail and basically without rights, should give you pause no matter what you decide concerning his guilt. Like the rest of America, I think the bombing of the Boston Marathon was a despicable criminal act, and I want to see the criminals responsible for it brought to justice. But are we willing to waive our basic freedoms and rights—to waive even the rule of law—in order to see that happen?

The city of Boston was largely under martial law during the manhunt for the suspects. Private citizens were on lockdown and subject to random and intrusive searches and seizures. And the politeness (or impoliteness) of the military-grade peace-keeping officers (or the drivers of the marauding tanks) is not relevant here. I seem to remember a Boston in the not-too-distant past that refused to submit to the military lockdown of an over-reaching government.

And let’s not forget that the 19-year-old suspect was not found until after the lockdown had been lifted. That’s right. Are you recognizing a pattern here? I am. Law-abiding citizens suffer the brunt of an intrusive tyranny designed to keep us safe while the real terrorists slip through the cracks. Did you know that the elder Tsarnaev had already been under FBI surveillance? For a long time in fact. According to a House committee that has “serious questions about the efficacy of the federal counter-terrorism efforts,” this is the fifth case since 9/11 of a successful terrorist act being perpetrated right under the nose of investigators. We’re shoveling our freedoms out for an added feeling of security, and it’s not even making us more secure. Brilliant!

I am no conspiracy theorist, but there are really only two options here: Option one, our intelligence agencies are extraordinarily incompetent. Option two, they knew about (and may have even allowed) these terrorist attacks as gambits in a bigger game they are playing against American freedom.

I don’t know what’s going on. None of us do really. And it doesn’t really matter. No matter why this happened, we need to stick to our guns (perhaps literally). Remember the Reichstag fire? Who knows who started it. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that German citizens were willing to give up their freedoms in a time of perceived crisis. And when the people give in to that kind of cowardice, crises just have a way of multiplying—and the civil government hasn’t wasted one yet.

We must refuse to give up basic freedoms no matter what we think we may gain in security. The bombers responsible for this criminal act should be brought to justice, but justice is based on the rule of law—not the arbitrary enforcement of “security” measures. Tyrannical governments have always played on the fear of citizens to secure more power. And what power government takes, it basically never relinquishes. Haven’t we already seen this? The Patriot Act, the NDAA resolution, the TSA, Homeland Security, and even the more recent CISPA were all passed for one simple reason: we were afraid. And have our fears diminished since then? Have we in fact become more secure? On the contrary, we are now more vulnerable than ever. The goal of terrorism is to destabilize a society through fear. If the upshot of these terrorist acts is that we allow our fears to dictate the future of our liberties, the terrorists—especially the ones in Washington—have already won.