Saturday, April 19, 2008

Constitution? What Constitution?

After 9/11 our government has in its infinite wisdom created a no-fly list, which contains the names of suspected terrorists who are not allowed to fly. While I can understand the purpose of the other list they established - a selectee list that contains the names of the people who should be searched more thoroughly when boarding a plane - what, exactly, is the purpose of a no-fly list? Wouldn't it be quite safe to transport even Bin Laden if he has been properly searched? What's he gonna do without weapons or explosives - pray and call Allah's wrath upon the plane? I am sure that hundreds of thousands of people, both terrorists and law-abiding citizens, have already spent tens of thousands hours praying to dozens of deities to strike the TSA dead, so the continuous existence of this agency can be considered a conclusive proof that prayer is not all that dangerous.

The evil-doers, in the meanwhile, have had the unprecedented gall to use fairly common names, such as T. Kennedy or Robert Johnson or David Nelson or John Williams. For the most part the list contains dates of birth, middle names, or suchlike, so all this means is that all the other people with the same names have to show some ID proving that they are not that particular person. Sometimes, however, there is nothing except the name, and everyone else by the same name is totally screwed.

In short, the government is keeping a secret list of names of people whom they don't have enough evidence to accuse, whose rights they infringe upon, who are not allowed to know why they are there and who are not allowed to know that they are in fact there until they arrive at the airport. Sweet.

The right to travel is a Consitutional right, not mentioned as such in the Constitution but very firmly established in the US law. It does not include the right to travel by the most convenient transportation, but that's an excuse that would work only if we are talking about the airline travel between, say, NYC and Boston. Between NYC and San Francisco, or Honolulu, there are no other feasible methods of transportation, and I'd love to see the government try to argue otherwise in court.

People in the US (Guantanamo Bay doesn't count, of course) are not supposed to be held to answer for crimes or deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law (Fifth Amendement). A secret government list does not quite constitute a due process of law. Not yet.

And now some people in Congress (U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Illinois) want to forbid selling guns to the people on that list. Mind you, I realize that evil-doers owning guns pose more risks than well-searched evil-doers flying on commercial airlines, but keeping and bearing arms is also protected by the constitution. Due process and all, you know. Besides, isn't it fun when you can't check whether or not you are on the list, but your friendly neighborhood firearm salesperson can?

And besides, isn't it strange that the people who are too suspicious to fly on airplanes and own guns are still allowed to hold public office? This should be fixed immediately.

In fact, let's start a whole new list for that. Now that the long secret lists of people not allowed to engage in various constitutionally protected activities have become the new custom of the land, can we also institute a no-government list? You know, a list of people totally unfit to hold public office?

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