by Connor Boyack

Yes, you read that right. The Constitution applies to terrorists. It also applies to stay-at-home moms, illegal immigrants, truck drivers, anti-government radicals, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Put differently, the Constitution does not apply only to citizens of the United States. It seems that protectionist collectivists treat this document like a two-year-old treats his favorite toy – unwilling to share, and incorrectly believing that it is his and his alone. This fallacy has become so propagated throughout the country’s general political mindset that a barbaric jingoism has resulted, leading people to automatically support the denial of constitutional protections of freedom for anybody who is a “terrorist.”

But who is a terrorist?

The picture that first comes to mind is the “insurgent” fighting against our military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the other countries of the Middle East in which our military is increasingly becoming engaged. Some examples of such “terrorists” might be: the vengeful man whose innocent brother was killed by an unmanned drone over the border of Pakistan; the adrenaline-fueled teenager taking on the militarized Goliath occupying his hometown; the man in the wrong place at the wrong time, picked up by a bounty hunter and sold to the American government with a fictional story created about his involvement in terrorist activities; and the list could continue, portraying stories far different than the standard “radical jihadist” that dominates our media’s narrative.

Things hit closer to home when the suspected terrorists have white skin. Take, for example, the Missouri Information Analysis Center report which labeled as terrorists supporters of Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, Bob Barr, and anybody sporting paraphernalia associated with the Constitution Party, Campaign for Liberty, or the Libertarian Party.

The absurdity continues – the government has also considered defenders of the Constitution, home-schoolers, peaceful protestors, and a host of patriotic organizations and individuals as terrorists. Do these “domestic rightwing terrorists” not merit constitutional safeguards of their liberty?

In other words, with a “terrorist” being any individual – U.S. citizen or not – upon whom the government arbitrarily imposes that label, why would anybody not consider the Constitution as applying to that individual? Some may take issue with this generality and instead specify the argument as only being relevant to non-citizens. But do these folks even understand what the Constitution is?

The Constitution is a document that created the federal government, and in so doing, specified powers granted to and denied that entity. It does not apply to a person or group of people, but rather to the government itself. In saying above that the Constitution applies to terrorists, truck drivers, etc., the idea is conveyed that the Constitution applies to all people who have any dealings with the federal government.

The cotton picker in Uzbekistan couldn’t care less about the U.S. Constitution, and taken literally, it does not really apply to him. But say this person vacationed in Pittsburgh, or say he visited the local American embassy. Having any interaction with agents of the federal government makes the Constitution relevant to him, since that governing document applies to the federal government and those who comprise it. Whether the person be a cotton picker, an “insurgent,” or anybody else, the federal government is bound by the constraints of the Constitution, and in attempting to administer legal punishment to another person, must give due process and protect other basic human rights – rights which the Declaration of Independence makes clear are given by the Creator to every individual.

Were this not the case, the government could extinguish the life of any non-citizen it wanted, at any time, for any reason – or for no reason at all. For if the guarantees enshrined in the Constitution apply only to U.S. citizens, what prevents the government from denying these rights to any non-citizen? The constitutional restraints are not specific to an individual who happens to be a citizen, thus (allegedly) preventing the federal government from denying them their rights, but rather are shackles of self-restraint placed around the appendages of the government itself, regardless of who the government deals with. Under the Constitution, all are recognized as enjoying basic rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; the government must follow an established process if it wishes to deny these rights to any individual, whatever his or her nationality.

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Americans must resist the tendency to be so selfish with our supposed freedoms. We either believe that our rights came from our Creator – and thus exist for all His children – or we don’t. We either believe that the federal government has power to deal as it pleases with any non-citizen, or we don’t. And we either view so-called “terrorists” as human beings entitled, insofar as is possible, to due process when dealing with our government, or we don’t. The alternative is an alarming one, for tomorrow you and I might ourselves be branded with this dubious distinction, finding ourselves the subject of scorn and derision, reduced to a discardable humanoid whose very existence is at the mercy of another person.

This is not the America I grew up in, nor the one I want to pass on to my children. How about you?

cross-posted from

Connor Boyack [send him mail] is a web developer, political economist, and budding philanthropist trying to change the world one byte at a time. He lives in Utah with his wife and son. Read his blog.

Copyright © 2010 by Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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