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An Appeal to the Protection of the Constitution

13 Dec 2001


[Dear Friends: I am forwarding this critical message to you regarding a petition campaign focused on the protection of basic civil liberties and due process at risk under the leadership of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Ashcroft's December 6th comments to the press that dissent to his proposals amounts to "ammunition to America's enemies" is inexplicable, and has been criticized by Left and Right alike. Please act on the following and pass it on.]

Wes Boyd of wrote:

In Senate hearings last week, Attorney General John Ashcroft questioned the patriotism of those speaking out for civil liberties: "Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve," he said. "They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends."

We can't let Ashcroft bully American citizens into deserting our Constitution. Join our "Defend the Constitution" campaign at:

We've all read the stories. The knock in the night. The quick scuffle, the cries of the children. And then the silence. Frantic spouses and friends trying to get even the slightest information about the loved one who has been arrested in the dead of night. Secret arrests on secret evidence, secret trials, secret executions.

But that can't happen here, right? We're talking about Nazi Germany or Stalin's Russia or Pinochet's Chile. But not the USA! We're protected by the rule of law, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights!

The Attorney General says it isn't so. We're at war, he says and the Constitution doesn't fully apply in an emergency. Anyhow, we're not talking about denying the rights of US citizens, just of the 20 million non-citizen residents of this country.

In the last two months, this administration has:

  • Announced that it would permit the monitoring of conversations between attorneys and their clients if suspected of terrorism;
  • Abolished civilian jury trials for non-citizen residents accused of terrorism;
  • Permitted the secret detention of suspects accused of terrorism;
  • Asked to use secret evidence to prosecute deportation hearings without providing that evidence to the defense.

The administration argues that these draconian measures are necessary to preserve our way of life.

We respectfully disagree. It is when we are fearful that we most need the protections of our constitution. Our institutions have worked for us for over 200 years. We are a nation of laws, not of men. Our freedom depends upon the rule of law. We don't suspend the law because we're under attack. We support and defend it.

This is not an issue of the left or right. William Safire, the conservative columnist, has called the Administration's moves "a dismaying departure from due process" and an assumption of "dictatorial power."

We urge Congress to assert that the Constitution and Bill of Rights must be fully respected, particularly in this time of crisis. We need your help and urge you join this petition by going to:

Charge Congress and the President with honoring their oaths of office to "defend the Constitution."

Sincerely yours,

Wes Boyd and Doug Carlston
December 12, 2001

"The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance."

--John Philpot Curran, 1790

"It is fundamental that the great powers of Congress to conduct war and to regulate the Nation's foreign relations are subject to the constitutional requirements of due process. The imperative necessity for safeguarding these rights to procedural due process under the gravest of emergencies has existed throughout our constitutional history, for it is then, under the pressing exigencies of crisis, that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with fundamental constitutional guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit governmental action."

--Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg
    in Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 1963

"Why suspend the habeas corpus in insurrections and rebellions? Examine the history of England. See how few of the cases of the suspension of the habeas corpus law have been worthy of that suspension. They have been either real treasons, wherein the parties might as well have been charged at once, or sham plots, where it was shameful they should ever have been suspected. Yet for the few cases wherein the suspension of the habeas corpus has done real good, that operation is now become habitual and the minds of the nation almost prepared to live under its constant suspension."

--Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1788

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