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Remember Richard Jewell?

In 1996 Richard Jewel discovered a pipe bomb at the Atlanta Olympics.  He helped clear the area, and was considered a hero until the FBI decided he was a suspect.  After leaking their suspicions to the media they raided his home and took just about everything that wasn’t locked down, including his mom’s Tupperware bowls.

Yes, he lived with his mother.  And he was a security guard.  He practically had an L tattooed on his forehead and the media had a field day at his expense.  They blasted the airwaves with his “criminal profile” (i.e. shit they made up) and turned him from a hero to a zero literally overnight.  The FBI put him under 24 hour surveillance, questioned everyone he knew, and made his life hell until his attorney had him take a polygraph test, which he passed.

That last sentence is important – he had an attorney.

So did Dr. Steven Hatfill, who was able to defend himself when he was accused (but never charged) with being the person behind the 2001 anthrax attacks that happened a few days after 9/11.  He was even able to sue the Department of Justice for ruining his life, and, surprisingly, won.   (Jewell also won lawsuits, but against the media that vilified him, not the government.)

Both of these people were able to defend themselves because, and only because, they were able to fight back using their civil rights.

John McCain and Joe Lieberman thinks that’s a bad idea, and they’ve introduced legislation that will allow the government to toss anyone they want into a black hole indefinitely, denying them of all their civil rights, on nothing more than the say-so of a government lackey.  There are no time limits. Suspects can be held forever.

I’m a pragmatic guy.  If we are ever in a real ticking bomb situation, fine, call in Jack Bauer and do whatever it takes.  It won’t come up often, if ever, because real ticking-bomb scenarios are as rare as believable plots on “24.”  I’ve also got no problems with the US putting a contract out on Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, because there’s solid proof, in the form of his own videos, that he’s a dangerous terrorist.

But most terrorists are clumsy punks who have shown time and time again that they pose little real threat to us.  Certainly not enough of a threat to further shred the Constitution.  And if this bill passes we can be certain that lots of innocent people will be rounded up as well.

Richard Jewell and Dr. Hatfield retained their freedom because they retained their civil rights.  If this law had been in place when they were suspects, they’d probably still be in jail.  The media would have assured us that they were guilty, and we wouldn’t know any better.

Think this couldn’t happen to you?  I’m guessing Jewell and Hatfield thought the same thing.

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5 Comment(s)

  1. Man. I’m suddenly reminded of a quote from a book about the French Revolution – that, like Saturn, it would eat its own children.

    The biggest danger to America is America.

    dartigen | May 28, 2010 | Reply

  2. Good read, one comment, The Atlanta Olympics were in ’96, not ’66.

    Scott | May 28, 2010 | Reply

  3. 1986, not 1966.

    Dave G | May 28, 2010 | Reply

  4. Do I hear 2006? Going once. . .

    Fixed it, thanks. I just got one of the numbers upside down.

    Dave Hitt | May 28, 2010 | Reply

  5. Richard A. Jewell (December 17, 1962 – August 29, 2007. Bruce Edwards Ivins (April 22, 1946 – July 29, 2008) He won 2nd runner-up in that pageant. I don’t know if Dr. Steven Hatfill is well, but I can’t help but think you pay for such accusations, with your wealth and health.

    Mary Stack | May 28, 2010 | Reply

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