Constitutional rights at core of our democracy

I wrote recently about the only important scandal involving the administration, the demand for phone records of reporters and the National Security Agency’s collection of telephone data and how it was akin to saying we have to destroy America to save it.

The administration sent high-ranking people to the microphones and Congress to stress the number of terrorist plots blocked, apparently by no other means but violating the Fourth Amendment rights of 300 million Americans.

As that was happening, the Supreme Court handed down the latest in a decadeslong string of giving the police the power to violate our Fifth Amendment rights. The latest is allowing DNA collection that could implicate you in a crime you may be charged with, even though the amendment says unambiguously a person shall not “be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

The administration’s response to the surveillance not only was akin to justifying waterboarding, as did the previous administration, but it appears no one applied critical thinking.

How many lives have to be saved before one can justify suspending the constitutional rights of how many Americans? We lost about 3,000 people on 9/11 – only a tenth of those we lose each year because we have a Second Amendment. That’s 300,000 gun-related deaths since 2001.

A critical thinker would ask, “Were the 9/11 deaths worth taking away arguably our most important constitutional rights?” Rights at the core of our democracy. How many – 3,000 or 300,000 – more?

Howard Fields