Democrat — MO 2nd District

Civil Liberties and the War on Terrorism

Summary: 

  • We want security. We value liberty. The difficult part is figuring out a way to defend our nation without sacrificing our freedoms. We need to constantly remember this when it comes to the federal government’s fight against terrorism.
  • More often, civil liberties are too quickly sacrificed. We need Congress committed to investigating the abuses carried out under the USA PATRIOT Act and to make the necessary corrections. We also need greater oversight over intelligence gathering agencies such as the NSA.
  • The prison at Guantanamo Bay is an insult to the Bill of Rights and the rule of law. It needs to be closed immediately and its prisoners transferred to civilian or military facilities. If there is probable cause to suspect these individuals of terrorism they can be tried in civilian courts.

“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  Benjamin Franklin

“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes.”  Mark Twain

From day one in our republic, we have struggled to balance “security” and “liberty.” We struggled with this in the Civil War. In both World Wars. And mightily during the Cold War. We are again confronted with this dilemma in the War on Terrorism.

This didn’t begin on September 11th.  But it was magnified on that day.

What we have seen in these past 16 years is a slow but steady decline in American civil liberties. And it’s all been done in the name of greater national security. As a representative in Congress I will work hard to strike a balance between security and liberty that leans heavily toward individual freedom and away from government overreach.

Specifically, these are the issues that will draw most of my attention:

  • We need an honest and complete public review of the USA PATRIOT Act. How has it been enforced? How has it worked? Where has it failed? What needs to be fixed? And what needs to be eliminated? Though such a review should be Congress’ responsibility, such a review should also involve – and be open to – the public. Security experts and civil liberty groups need to be fully heard. The PATRIOT Act was essentially rammed down our throats. Civil liberty violations need to be confronted and appropriate actions need to take place.
  • We need increased Congressional oversight over intelligence gathering agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA). The PATRIOT Act opened the door to a lot of government overreach. Nowhere was this more profound than with the NSA. Yes, we need bulwarks like the NSA to defend ourselves from the enemy but we cannot allow our methods to infringe upon the very civil liberties that make us worth defending. Congress must demand a greater oversight role over this independent – and often disturbingly mysterious – executive agency.
  • We need to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The War on Terrorism presented us with a unique dilemma: What to do with captured and suspected terrorists? The solution was to create a “quasi-legal” prison in Cuba. By labeling these individuals “unlawful enemy combatants” the US found a way to strip these suspects of American and international protections. This was a move made out of panic. And this prison needs to close immediately. Suspects currently there need to be transferred to real American prisons and entered into either the civilian or military justice systems. The argument that our civilian courts can’t deal with terrorists effectively is completely false! Since 2001, US civilian courts have successfully convicted over 600 terrorists. Our justice systems works. Locking suspects away in Cuba – in violation of our founding principles – is cowardly and un-American.
End Corruption. Demand reform.
Paid for by John Messmer for Congress.