So much for the oath to uphold the Constitution, eh? “Due process is what’s killing us right now,” said Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) on Morning Joe today in pushing for a bill to use secret watch lists to deny Americans civil rights. In place of due process, Manchin proposes a five-year suspension of civil rights and surveillance when the FBI fails to find anything wrong after “suspicion” arises … just to be safe, of course (via Stephen Green at Instapundit):
— Morning Joe (@Morning_Joe) June 16, 2016
In fact, Manchin admits that the watch-list ban wouldn’t have worked to prevent the Orlando shooter from purchasing weapons, because the FBI had already taken him off those lists. That’s why Manchin proposes that the government simply remove civil rights for five years from anyone who’s been under FBI investigation:
MANCHIN: Really, the firewall we have right now is due process. It’s all due process. So we can all say we want the same thing, but how do we get there? If a person is on a terrorist watch list, like the gentleman, the shooter in Orlando? He was twice by the FBI — we were briefed yesterday about what happened — but that young man was brought in twice. They did everything they could. The FBI did everything they were supposed to do. But there was no way to keep him on the nix list or keep him off the gun-buy list, there was no way to do that.
So can’t we say that if a person’s under suspicion there should be a five-year period of time that we have to see if good behavior, if this person continues the same traits? Maybe we can come to that type of an agreement, but due process is what’s killing us right now.
What interesting times in which we live! Who would have guessed that we’d hear demands to demolish due process from liberals — and on national television? (Hint: Everyone, eventually.) Manchin doesn’t just want a watch-list ban — he wants law enforcement to decide who gets to exercise civil rights, and when.
If Manchin’s so keen on suspending explicit constitutional rights on the basis of suspicion, can we also eliminate the Fourth Amendment and conduct warrantless raids on people whom police suspect of being criminals? How about suspending the Fifth Amendment for people suspected of taking part in criminal conspiracies, or bypassing the Sixth Amendment rights to confront witnesses and defend one’s self in a court?
Actually, Manchin’s proposal would violate most of those, in one form or another, along with the Second Amendment.
Here’s a better idea — let’s allow the executive branch to seize the records of legislators that they think might be corrupt or undermining America. Let’s start with Joe Manchin! Who needs that pesky Constitution, anyway? It’s killing us, man! Official suspicion is so much better than due process, at least for those who aren’t the target of it.
This is precisely the slippery slope I warned about in my column for The Week:
The American system of justice relies on core principles based on a fundamental understanding of natural law. First, the Constitution exists to restrain government from encroaching on the rights of its sovereign citizens. Second, each citizen retains those civil rights unless a jury of their peers convicts them of violating the law. Third, each citizen is entitled to due process and a presumption of innocence from the government until conviction.
In the wake of the Orlando shooting, the familiar rush to use the no-fly and terror watch lists as a bar to owning a firearm violates every single one of these principles. …
In this proposal, Clinton and her allies call for an end to due process before denying citizens their constitutional right to bear arms. This is a far more fundamental issue than debating over which firearms to bar from private ownership; it strikes at the fundamental relationship between citizens and the government that exists to serve their liberty interests. Once those principles have been discarded for political expediency on the mere basis of official suspicion, no rights — whether natural or declared — will ever be safe again.
Joe Manchin let the mask slip today. Let’s hope that wakes up the rest of the country, before they find themselves the target of “suspicion” and spend five years — or the rest of their lives — dealing with the consequences of a government unmoored from due process.