"The Fourth Amendment recognizes the ‘right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches’ unless there is a showing of probable cause, but this concept must be balanced with the protection of the security of our citizens. It is imperative that, in our attempt to keep our nation safe, we not sacrifice the liberty of our citizens."
I'm trying to assess where Arcuri really stands on the issue of preserving civil liberties, but, based on this statement I can't really work it out.
On the one hand, Arcuri says that we must not sacrifice the liberty of our citizens. Yet, in the previous sentence, Arcuri suggests that freedom from unreasonable search and seizure must be limited according to the needs of security.
So which is it?
Furthermore, where in the United States Constitution or its amendments does it say that the liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights should be "balanced" [translation: reduced] in order to make people feel secure?
Almost five years after the current security panic began, I'm getting sick of hearing about how our liberties need to be "balanced" [translation: respected only when it's convenient to those in power] with the demands of security. Liberty is not liberty if it exists only when the going is easy.
We have seen what the Republicans believe to be the proper "balance" between liberty and security. We have had imprisonment of American citizens without recognition of habeas corpus rights, much less respect for the right to legal representation and a trial. We have seen a striking pattern of purposeful, illegal torture implemented by our government around the world. We have seen, not just the warrantless wiretapping by the NSA, but also the development of multiple programs to spy against nonviolent American political dissidents by agents of the FBI and the military, as well as through local law enforcement officers. We have also seen the development of a gigantic computer database used to track the legal, private activities of law-abiding Americans. In spite of assurances that Total Information Awareness was shut down, internal sources now indicate that the program was merely moved into the NSA, and given new code names, such as "basketball".
All these programs to violate our liberty were held as secrets by the Bush White House. What other similar programs have we yet to discover? People with a lot more legal expertise than me are calling the current attacks against our basic liberties a Constitutional crisis.
In short, those who argue that our liberties must be "balanced" [translation: tossed aside] against security needs have zero credibility. Every time that such balance has been proposed, true balance has been lost.
The American system of democratic powers depends upon the stable balance that is created through strict adherence to standards of liberty. It is when we begin to make exceptions to constitutional guarantees of liberty that our nation teeters out of balance.
I hope that Mike Arcuri reconsiders his use of the claim that liberty must be balanced against security. The concept is a Republican one, through and through, and it enables the Republican frame on political language. Any Democrat who accepts that frame will lose the debate against a Republican opponent, because it is the Republicans, not the Democrats, who are popularly associated with security.
Would Michael Arcuri make a similar claim as District Attorney, that the civil rights of criminal defendants must be balanced against the need to rid the streets of crime? Of course not. Everyone would understand that such statements are unacceptable.
What applies on the local level applies on the national level. The law is the law. The Constitution says what the Constitution says. There shall be no unreasonable searches and seizures. Period.