How Many Rights Do You Have Essay

, Research Paper How many rights do you have? You should check, because it might not be as many today as it was a few years ago, or even a few months ago. Some people I

, Research Paper

How many rights do you have? You should

check, because it might not be as many today as it was a

few years ago, or even a few months ago. Some people I

talk to are not concerned that police will execute a search

warrant without knocking or that they set up roadblocks and

stop and interrogate innocent citizens. They do not regard

these as great infringements on their rights. But when you put

current events together, there is information that may be

surprising to people who have not yet been concerned: The

amount of the Bill of Rights that is under attack is alarming.

Let’s take a look at the Bill of Rights and see which aspects

are being pushed on or threatened. The point here is not the

degree of each attack or its rightness or wrongness, but the

sheer number of rights that are under attack. Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of

religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging

the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the

people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the

Government for a redress of grievances. ESTABLISHING

RELIGION: While campaigning for his first term, George

Bush said “I don’t know that atheists should be considered

as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.” Bush has

not retracted, commented on, or clarified this statement, in

spite of requests to do so. According to Bush, this is one

nation under God. And apparently if you are not within

Bush’s religious beliefs, you are not a citizen. Federal, state,

and local governments also promote a particular religion (or,

occasionally, religions) by spending public money on

religious displays. FREE EXERCISE OF RELIGION:

Robert Newmeyer and Glenn Braunstein were jailed in 1988

for refusing to stand in respect for a judge. Braunstein says

the tradition of rising in court started decades ago when

judges entered carrying Bibles. Since judges no longer carry

Bibles, Braunstein says there is no reason to stand — and his

Bible tells him to honor no other God. For this religious

practice, Newmeyer and Braunstein were jailed and are now

suing. FREE SPEECH: We find that technology has given

the government an excuse to interfere with free speech.

Claiming that radio frequencies are a limited resource, the

government tells broadcasters what to say (such as news

and public and local service programming) and what not to

say (obscenity, as defined by the Federal Communications

Commission [FCC]). The FCC is investigating Boston PBS

station WGBH-TV for broadcasting photographs from the

Mapplethorpe exhibit. FREE SPEECH: There are also laws

to limit political statements and contributions to political

activities. In 1985, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce

wanted to take out an advertisement supporting a candidate

in the state house of representatives. But a 1976 Michigan

law prohibits a corporation from using its general treasury

funds to make independent expenditures in a political

campaign. In March, the Supreme Court upheld that law.

According to dissenting Justice Kennedy, it is now a felony

in Michigan for the Sierra Club, the American Civil Liberties

Union, or the Chamber of Commerce to advise the public

how a candidate voted on issues of urgent concern to their

members. FREE PRESS: As in speech, technology has

provided another excuse for government intrusion in the

press. If you distribute a magazine electronically and do not

print copies, the government doesn’t consider you a press

and does not give you the same protections courts have

extended to printed news. The equipment used to publish

Phrack, a worldwide electronic magazine about phones and

hacking, was confiscated after publishing a document copied

from a Bell South computer entitled “A Bell South Standard

Practice (BSP) 660-225-104SV Control Office

Administration of Enhanced 911 Services for Special

Services and Major Account Centers, March, 1988.” All of

the information in this document was publicly available from

Bell South in other documents. The government has not

alleged that the publisher of Phrack, Craig Neidorf, was

involved with or participated in the copying of the document.

Also, the person who copied this document from telephone

company computers placed a copy on a bulletin board run

by Rich Andrews. Andrews forwarded a copy to AT&T

officials and cooperated with authorities fully. In return, the

Secret Service (SS) confiscated Andrews’ computer along

with all the mail and data that were on it. Andrews was not

charged with any crime. FREE PRESS: In another incident

that would be comical if it were not true, on March 1 the SS

ransacked the offices of Steve Jackson Games (SJG);

irreparably damaged property; and confiscated three

computers, two laser printers, several hard disks, and many

boxes of paper and floppy disks. The target of the SS

operation was to seize all copies of a game of fiction called

GURPS Cyberpunk. The Cyberpunk game contains

fictitious break-ins in a futuristic world, with no technical

information of actual use with real computers, nor is it played

on computers. The SS never filed any charges against SJG

but still refused to return confiscated property.

PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY: The right to assemble

peaceably is no longer free — you have to get a permit. Even

that is not enough; some officials have to be sued before they

realize their reasons for denying a permit are not

Constitutional. PEACEABLE ASSEMBLY: In Alexandria,

Virginia, there is a law that prohibits people from loitering for

more than seven minutes and exchanging small objects.

Punishment is two years in jail. Consider the scene in jail:

“What’d you do?” “I was waiting at a bus stop and gave a

guy a cigarette.” This is not an impossible occurrence: In

Pittsburgh, Eugene Tyler, 15, has been ordered away from

bus stops by police officers. Sherman Jones, also 15, was

accosted with a police officer’s hands around his neck after

putting the last bit of pizza crust into his mouth. The police

suspected him of hiding drugs. PETITION FOR REDRESS

OF GRIEVANCES: Rounding out the attacks on the first

amendment, there is a sword hanging over the right to

petition for redress of grievances. House Resolution 4079,

the National Drug and Crime Emergency Act, tries to

“modify” the right to habeas corpus. It sets time limits on the

right of people in custody to petition for redress and also

limits the courts in which such an appeal may be heard.

Amendment II A well regulated Militia, being necessary to

the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep

and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. RIGHT TO BEAR

ARMS: This amendment is so commonly challenged that the

movement has its own name: gun control. Legislation banning

various types of weapons is supported with the claim that the

weapons are not for “legitimate” sporting purposes. This is a

perversion of the right to bear arms for two reasons. First,

the basis of freedom is not that permission to do legitimate

things is granted to the people, but rather that the

government is empowered to do a limited number of

legitimate things — everything else people are free to do;

they do not need to justify their choices. Second, should the

need for defense arise, it will not be hordes of deer that the

security of a free state needs to be defended from. Defense

would be needed against humans, whether external invaders

or internal oppressors. It is an unfortunate fact of life that the

guns that would be needed to defend the security of a state

are guns to attack people, not guns for sporting purposes.

Firearms regulations also empower local officials, such as

police chiefs, to grant or deny permits. This results in towns

where only friends of people in the right places are granted

permits, or towns where women are generally denied the

right to carry a weapon for self-defense. Amendment III No

Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house,

without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in

a manner to be prescribed by law. QUARTERING

SOLDIERS: This amendment is fairly clean so far, but it is

not entirely safe. Recently, 200 troops in camouflage dress

with M-16s and helicopters swept through Kings Ridge

National Forest in Humboldt County, California. In the

process of searching for marijuana plants for four days,

soldiers assaulted people on private land with M-16s and

barred them from their own property. This might not be a

direct hit on the third amendment, but the disregard for

private property is uncomfortably close. Amendment IV The

right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,

papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and

seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue,

but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation,

and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the

persons or things to be seized. RIGHT TO BE SECURE IN



SEIZURES: The RICO law is making a mockery of the right

to be secure from seizure. Entire stores of books or

videotapes have been confiscated based upon the presence

of some sexually explicit items. Bars, restaurants, or houses

are taken from the owners because employees or tenants

sold drugs. In Volusia County, Florida, Sheriff Robert Vogel

and his officers stop automobiles for contrived violations. If

large amounts of cash are found, the police confiscate it on

the PRESUMPTION that it is drug money — even if there is

no other evidence and no charges are filed against the car’s

occupants. The victims can get their money back only if they

prove the money was obtained legally. One couple got their

money back by proving it was an insurance settlement. Two

other men who tried to get their two thousand dollars back

were denied by the Florida courts. RIGHT TO BE



AND SEIZURES: A new law goes into effect in Oklahoma

on January 1, 1991. All property, real and personal, is

taxable, and citizens are required to list all their personal

property for tax assessors, including household furniture,

gold and silver plate, musical instruments, watches, jewelry,

and personal, private, or professional libraries. If a citizen

refuses to list their property or is suspected of not listing

something, the law directs the assessor to visit and enter the

premises, getting a search warrant if necessary. Being

required to tell the state everything you own is not being

secure in one’s home and effects. NO WARRANTS



supporting oath or affirmation, reports of anonymous

informants are accepted. This practice has been condoned



THINGS TO BE SEIZED: Today’s warrants do not

particularly describe the things to be seized — they list things

that might be present. For example, if police are making a

drug raid, they will list weapons as things to be searched for

and seized. This is done not because the police know of any

weapons and can particularly describe them, but because

they allege people with drugs often have weapons. Both of

the above apply to the warrant the Hudson, New

Hampshire, police used when they broke down Bruce

Lavoie’s door at 5 a.m. with guns drawn and shot and killed

him. The warrant claimed information from an anonymous

informant, and it said, among other things, that guns were to

be seized. The mention of guns in the warrant was used as

reason to enter with guns drawn. Bruce Lavoie had no guns.

Bruce Lavoie was not secure from unreasonable search and

seizure — nor is anybody else. Other infringements on the

fourth amendment include roadblocks and the Boston Police

detention of people based on colors they are wearing

(supposedly indicating gang membership). And in Pittsburgh

again, Eugene Tyler was once searched because he was

wearing sweat pants and a plaid shirt — police told him they

heard many drug dealers at that time were wearing sweat

pants and plaid shirts. Amendment V No person shall be

held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime,

unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury,

except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the

Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public

danger; nor shall any person be subject to the same offence

to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be

compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against

himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without

due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for

public use without just compensation. INDICTMENT OF A

GRAND JURY: Kevin Bjornson has been proprietor of

Hydro-Tech for nearly a decade and is a leading authority

on hydroponic technology and cultivation. On October 26,

1989, both locations of Hydro-Tech were raided by the

Drug Enforcement Administration. National Drug Control

Policy Director William Bennett has declared that some

indoor lighting and hydroponic equipment is purchased by

marijuana growers, so retailers and wholesalers of such

equipment are drug profiteers and co-conspirators. Bjornson

was not charged with any crime, nor subpoenaed, issued a

warrant, or arrested. No illegal substances were found on his

premises. Federal officials were unable to convince grand

juries to indict Bjornson. By February, they had called

scores of witnesses and recalled many two or three times,

but none of the grand juries they convened decided there

was reason to criminally prosecute Bjornson. In spite of that,

as of March, his bank accounts were still frozen and none of

the inventories or records had been returned. Grand juries

refused to indict Bjornson, but the government is still


LIMB: Members of the McMartin family in California have

been tried two or three times for child abuse. Anthony

Barnaby was tried for murder (without evidence linking him

to the crime) three times before New Hampshire let him go.


HIMSELF: Oliver North was forced to testify against

himself. Congress granted him immunity from having anything

he said to them being used as evidence against him, and then

they required him to talk. After he did so, what he said was

used to find other evidence which was used against him. The

courts also play games where you can be required to testify

against yourself if you testify at all. COMPELLED TO BE A


Central Park assault case, three people were found guilty of

assault. But there was no physical evidence linking them to

the crime; semen did not match any of the defendants. The

only evidence the state had was confessions. To obtain these

confessions, the police questioned a 15-year old without a

parent present — which is illegal under New York state law.

Police also refused to let the subject’s Big Brother, an

attorney for the Federal government, see him during

questioning. Police screamed “You better tell us what we

want to hear and cooperate or you are going to jail,” at

14-year-old Antron McCray, according to Bobby McCray,

his father. Antron McCray “confessed” after his father told

him to, so that police would release him. These people were

coerced into bearing witness against themselves, and those

confessions were used to convict them. COMPELLED TO


Census questions are required by law, with a $100 penalty

for each question not answered. But people have been

evicted for giving honest Census answers. According to the

General Accounting Office, one of the most frequent ways

city governments use census information is to detect illegal

two-family dwellings. This has happened in Montgomery

County, Maryland; Pullman, Washington; and Long Island,

New York. The August 8, 1989, Wall Street Journal reports

this and other ways Census answers have been used against


AGAINST HIMSELF: Drug tests are being required from

more and more people, even when there is no probable

cause, no accident, and no suspicion of drug use. Requiring

people to take drug tests compels them to provide evidence

against themselves. DEPRIVED OF LIFE, LIBERTY, OR


clause is violated on each of the items life, liberty, and

property. Incidents including such violations are described

elsewhere in this article. Here are two more: On March 26,

1987, in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, Jeffrey Miles was killed

by police officer John Rucker, who was looking for a

suspected drug dealer. Rucker had been sent to the wrong

house; Miles was not wanted by police. He received no due

process. In Detroit, $4,834 was seized from a grocery store

after dogs detected traces of cocaine on three one-dollar

bills in a cash register. PRIVATE PROPERTY TAKEN


COMPENSATION: RICO is shredding this aspect of the

Bill of Rights. The money confiscated by Sheriff Vogel goes

directly into Vogel’s budget; it is not regulated by the

legislature. Federal and local governments seize and auction

boats, buildings, and other property. Under RICO, the

government is seizing property without due process. The

victims are required to prove not only that they are not guilty

of a crime, but that they are entitled to their property.

Otherwise, the government auctions off the property and

keeps the proceeds. Amendment VI In all criminal

prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy

and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district

wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district

shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be

informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be

confronted with the witnesses against him; to have

compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in his favor, and

to have the assistance of counsel for his defence. THE


Surprisingly, the right to a public trial is under attack. When

Marion Barry was being tried, the prosecution attempted to

bar Louis Farrakhan and George Stallings from the gallery.

This request was based on an allegation that they would

send silent and “impermissible messages” to the jurors. The

judge initially granted this request. One might argue that the

whole point of a public trial is to send a message to all the

participants: The message is that the public is watching; the

trial had better be fair. BY AN IMPARTIAL JURY: The

government does not even honor the right to trial by an

impartial jury. US District Judge Edward Rafeedie is

investigating improper influence on jurors by US marshals in

the Enrique Camarena case. US marshals apparently illegally

communicated with jurors during deliberations. OF THE


SHALL HAVE BEEN COMMITTED: This is incredible,

but Manuel Noriega is being tried so far away from the place

where he is alleged to have committed crimes that the United

States had to invade another country and overturn a

government to get him. Nor is this a unique occurrence; in a

matter separate from the Camarena case, Judge Rafeedie

was asked to dismiss charges against Mexican gynecologist

Dr. Humberto Alvarez Machain on the grounds that the

doctor was illegally abducted from his Guadalajara office in

April and turned over to US authorities. TO BE


ACCUSATION: Steve Jackson Games, nearly put out of

business by the raid described previously, has been

stonewalled by the SS. “For the past month or so these guys

have been insisting the book wasn’t the target of the raid, but

they don’t say what the target was, or why they were critical

of the book, or why they won’t give it back,” Steve Jackson

says. “They have repeatedly denied we’re targets but don’t

explain why we’ve been made victims.” Attorneys for SJG

tried to find out the basis for the search warrant that led to

the raid on SJG. But the application for that warrant was

sealed by order of the court and remained sealed at last

report, in July. Not only has the SS taken property and

nearly destroyed a publisher, it will not even explain the

nature and cause of the accusations that led to the raid. TO


AGAINST HIM: The courts are beginning to play fast and

loose with the right to confront witnesses. Watch out for

anonymous witnesses and videotaped testimony. TO HAVE


WITNESSES: Ronald Reagan resisted submitting to

subpoena and answering questions about Irangate, claiming

matters of national security and executive privilege. A judge

had to dismiss some charges against Irangate participants

because the government refused to provide information

subpoenaed by the defendants. And one wonders if the

government would go to the same lengths to obtain

witnesses for Manuel Noriega as it did to capture him. TO


assistance of counsel took a hit recently. Connecticut Judge

Joseph Sylvester is refusing to assign public defenders to

people ACCUSED of drug-related crimes, including drunk


RICO is also affecting the right to have the assistance of

counsel. The government confiscates the money of an

accused person, which leaves them unable to hire attorneys.

The IRS has served summonses nationwide to defense

attorneys, demanding the names of clients who paid cash for

fees exceeding $10,000. Amendment VII In Suits at

common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed

twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved,

and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in

any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of


COMMON LAW: This is a simple right; so far the

government has not felt threatened by it and has not made

attacks on it that I am aware of. This is our only remaining

safe haven in the Bill of Rights. Amendment VIII Excessive

bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor

cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. EXCESSIVE BAIL

AND FINES: Tallahatchie County in Mississippi charges ten

dollars a day to each person who spends time in the jail,

regardless of the length of stay or the outcome of their trial.

This means innocent people are forced to pay. Marvin Willis

was stuck in jail for 90 days trying to raise $2,500 bail on an

assault charge. But after he made that bail, he was kept

imprisoned because he could not pay the $900 rent

Tallahatchie demanded. Nine former inmates are suing the

county for this practice. CRUEL AND UNUSUAL

PUNISHMENTS: House Resolution 4079 sticks its nose in

here too: “… a Federal court shall not hold prison or jail

crowding unconstitutional under the eighth amendment

except to the extent that an individual plaintiff inmate proves

that the crowding causes the infliction of cruel and unusual

punishment of that inmate.” CRUEL AND UNUSUAL

PUNISHMENTS: A life sentence for selling a quarter of a

gram of cocaine for $20 — that is what Ricky Isom was

sentenced to in February in Cobb County, Georgia. It was

Isom’s second conviction in two years, and state law

imposes a mandatory sentence. Even the judge pronouncing

the sentence thinks it is cruel; Judge Tom Cauthorn

expressed grave reservations before sentencing Isom and

Douglas Rucks (convicted of selling 3.5 grams of cocaine in

a separate but similar case). Judge Cauthorn called the

sentences “Draconian.” Amendment IX The enumeration in

the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to

deny or disparage others retained by the people. OTHER


is so weak today that I will ask not what infringements there

are on it but rather what exercise of it exists at all? What law

can you appeal to a court to find you not guilty of violating

because the law denies a right retained by you? Amendment

X The powers not delegated to the United States by the

Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved

to the States respectively, or to the people. POWERS


amendment is also weak, although it is not so nonexistent as

the ninth amendment. But few states set their own speed

limits or drinking age limits. Today, we mostly think of this

country as the — singular — United States, rather than a

collection of states. This concentration of power detaches

laws from the desires of people — and even of states. House

Resolution 4079 crops up again here — it uses financial

incentives to get states to set specific penalties for certain

crimes. Making their own laws certainly must be considered

a right of the states, and this right is being infringed upon.

Out of ten amendments, nine are under attack, most of them

under multiple attacks of different natures, and some of them

under a barrage. If this much of the Bill of Rights is

threatened, how can you be sure your rights are safe? A

right has to be there when you need it. Like insurance, you

cannot afford to wait until you need it and then set about

procuring it or ensuring it is available. Assurance must be

made in advance. The bottom line here is that your rights are

not safe. You do not know when one of your rights will be

violated. A number of rights protect accused persons, and

you may think it is not important to protect the rights of

criminals. But if a right is not there for people accused of

crimes, it will not be there when you need it. With the Bill of

Rights in the sad condition described above, nobody can be

confident they will be able to exercise the rights to which

they are justly entitled. To preserve our rights for ourselves

in the future, we must defend them for everybody today.