Stop It in Its Tracks

The Supreme Court usually hears approximately 75 out of the 8,000 cases filed each term. In order to decide which are important enough to be heard, the court applies certain limiting criteria to each case. Certain cases must be heard, such as those requiring rulings on issues of race, gender, and equality (such as Gratz v. Bollinger (No. 02-516 2003), this summer’s ruling on affirmative action). However, whether or not cases that do not meet the required criteria are heard is decided by the justices themselves; in order to proceed, the case must pass by a four-justice majority vote. Since 9/11, there have been a great number of cases filed at the local, state, and federal levels regarding allegedly poor, unethical, or illegal treatment of U.S. citizens or military detainees. On one hand, the excessive and constitutionally forbidden actions by our Republican President and his administration to prevent terrorism, such as the PATRIOT Act – which allows government access to private records of all sorts – and the periodic racial profiling post-September 11, is not just unfortunate. It constitutes a violation of our American civil rights and provides a perfect example of the federal government’s reach into the privacy of its citizens (the antithesis of which is a true Republican virtue). On the other hand, the threats of future terrorist attacks on our American sovereignty are hard to overlook. Thus, as many of these cases have finally moved through the court system and are now filed as Supreme Court appeals, whether or not national security can override personal freedom is a question that now holds an added importance. Knowing that the future of their cases depends not on set criteria to which the Supreme Court adheres, but on the personal willingness of the justices to hear the cases, most parties have not stressed the improper treatment of their clients, but rather focused on the importance of the issue at hand and the Court’s need to address it. One case, filed by an international law firm on behalf of Fawzi Khalid Abdullah Fahad al Odah and 11 other Kuwaitis captured during the United States’ bout with Afghanistan and held at Guantánamo, “invokes the court’s robust sense of institutional pride and concern for the separation of powers, a particular interest of the conservative majority,” says Linda Greenhouse of The New York Times. While it is unfortunate that these detainees are being held without bail or legal representation, our constitution and nation prohibit foreigners from receiving the same rights as our own citizens; thus, the Supreme Court will most likely not hear those cases. However, cases involving American citizens of Arabic ethnicity who were detained by the tyrannical expansion of the Department of Homeland Security must be heard in order to maintain the right to freedom in this nation and end the oppressive rein of right-revoking-in-the-name-of-national-security. I sway Republican because I think that in the heart of the Democratic Party lies the belief that if there is a problem, the federal government can fix it. I disagree with this reasoning. The United States of America was founded on certain principles – life, liberty, the ability to pursue happiness – and those inalienable were intended to be upheld by the Bill of Rights. There are loopholes and clauses like the “compelling government interest clause,” which allows the federal government to revoke citizens’ rights or disregard certain laws if there is a compelling enough government interest to do so. However, there is no justification for allowing the federal government to peep into every private record of a citizen – it is not only immoral, but it is a violation of our inalienable rights to privacy of home and person. Thus, in its attempt to further protect the rights and lives of every American, the Bush administration has, instead, stretched the arm of the government far into the private lives of its citizens; this is something that most Republicans should abhor. It would behoove the Supreme Court to, through hearing at least one of the cases involving detained American citizens based on a “threat” to national security, exercise our nation’s system of checks and balances to put our freedoms back in place and rule the PATRIOT Act – and all forms of right-revoking-in-the-name-of-national-security – unconstitutional. The United States is better than this.