Rising tensions raise awareness of civil liberties

By Adam Schalke

The start of the 2016 campaign season began with not a whimper, nor even a bang, but a cacophony. The rise of Donald Trump in Republican polls has turned his party’s primary into an amalgam of toxic rhetoric and policy proposals, both best observed in regards to Latino Americans and immigration reform respectively. For the Democrats, rising tensions amongst their core demographics and ideologies could spell trouble for America’s oldest political party in the coming post-Obama era.

Remarkably, despite their respective ordeals, the objectives of both parties seems to be more aligned than they have been in almost a decade. It’s encouraging to see the leaders of both parties rallying around the same issues again, but amidst all the talk of reform on both sides, be it in regards to criminal justice, student loans, or immigration, one area in damning need of reform seems to be going by largely unnoticed: National Security.

It doesn’t seem that long ago when the country was outraged by Edward Snowden’s revelations of the NSA using warrantless wiretaps to collect bulk phone data from millions of ordinary Americans, and their anger was justified. The Fourth Amendment protects us from such warrantless intrusions. It says that if I am doing no wrong, then the government has no business and no right to investigate me or my belongings, and if it does have legitimate reason to suspect that I am doing wrong and a search is conducted, there better be a warrant signed by a judge to make such a single search valid.

Despite what’s stated in the Fourth Amendment, the NSA ignored the Bill of Rights and justified their behavior under the authority of the Patriot Act, a highly controversial and polarizing law in its own right. What’s dumbfounding is that only two candidates, Senators Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul, have shown consistent and deliberate concern against the dangers of unchecked surveillance and government overreach in the name of national defense. Mr. Paul, invoked the memories of the founding fathers as he filibustered the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, while Mr. Sanders expressed concern over the state of free expression in America if such practices remain in place. As for their colleagues, they offer little to nothing about reforming our national security network.

As Rooseveltians, it is our duty to uphold the principles of social justice and apply them wherever they need to be applied, but I find it equally important to understand that upholding social justice often comes to a direct intersection with defending civil liberties, for we cannot speak against social injustices if our freedom of speech is targeted and monitored. It is possible to stand up for both social justice and our freedoms under the Bill of Rights, and I encourage more students to advocate for both.

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