What Would 9/11 Have Been Like Without the Constitution? Look at France

Socialist government likely to amend French constitution to extend state of emergency, strip citizenship of convicted dual nationals


Joyeux Noel! ||| CBS News
CBS News

Thanks to the exertions of Anthony Fisher and John Stossel, Reason readers are well aware that France has responded to the horrific attacks of last month by cracking down on civil liberties through an ever-extending state of emergency that includes such nastinesses as judicial-free house arrest and government closure of websites. To that we can add the announcement from Prime Minister Manuel Valls last week that he seeks to amend the constitution to make some of those emergency measures permanent, and strip the French citizenship of dual nationals who are convicted of as-yet unspecified crimes against the state.

I write about this, with some mild local color, in today's L.A. Times, giving props to the resilience of the U.S. Constitution in the face of similar political desires. Excerpt:

Sadly, America's political class seems eager to follow where France now treads. Sen. Ted Cruz is the primary sponsor of the Expatriate Terrorist Act, which would strip nationality from Americans determined to have given "material assistance" to terrorist organizations.

Lest anyone think this is a GOP-only idea, Hillary Clinton in 2010 was eager to take a "hard look" at her friend Joe Lieberman's similarly worded Terrorist Expatriation Act, telling the New York Times that "People who are serving foreign powers — or in this case, foreign terrorists — are clearly in violation, in my personal opinion, of that oath which they swore when they became citizens."

Clinton also has an unfortunately Parisian outlook about censoring American social media sites. "They cannot permit the recruitment and the actual direction of attacks or the celebration of violence," the Democratic favorite declared this month on ABC's "This Week." "They're going to have to help us take down these announcements and these appeals."

Whole thing, including an O. Henry-like National Front twist at the end, here.

NEXT: Update: TSA Will Give 120 Days Before "Implementing REAL ID Enforcement at Airports"

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  1. Our republic, and associated liberties, will survive even this deeply stupid presidential campaign, in part because our founding document ? heavy with checks and balances ? is designed to thwart the authoritarian fantasies of all those do-something politician.

    *** clicks heels together three times ***

    1. “I can’t see the writing on the wall because I’m blinded by my own delusions.”

    2. Round up the usual suspects – it’s time for some Vichy waterboarding.

  2. The City of Search Lights.

  3. Finally, Reason comes around to the idea of American exceptionalism. While this article borders on punching down, I don’t think we have to worry about the French doing anything about it.

  4. would strip nationality from Americans determined to have given “material assistance” to terrorist organization

    Oh, like Rep Peter King, R-IRA? I haven’t heard him deny that he fucks both sheep and goats either.

    1. He never told us when he stopped molesting his kids!

      1. His busy trying to molest the America people,TSA forever!!! Stop and frisk,ect.

      2. It’s not just his kids that he has been said to molest.

  5. I guess we’ll have to go back to calling them Freedom Fries.

    Also, i’ll have to return that Freedom Maid costume i bought for my wife.

    1. Holding both hands up is the new ‘Salute to Freedom.’

  6. Wilson and FDR ignored the constitution during WW1 and WW2 .With the ‘right’ person in charge and a willing congress it can happen again. Most of the R’s are willing autocrats,so it H. Clinton.And Sanders hates property rights ,income and overall wealth that people earn.Freedom of speech is under attack from both side..The public seems to have a fair number of people who agree with one or the other.I,for one,am not hopeful.

    1. And many rights we have here [for now] do not exist in England or the E.U.

      1. They exist. They’re just not recognized by the government.

        1. Europe has a long history of banning weapons for the people and free expression.They do not believe in these rights,They also have a history of wanting,demanding, positive rights

      2. If they can be violated, they must exist–if there’s an exception to the rule, then there must be a rule.

        It’s also notable that violating our rights has predictable and consistent consequences–especially on the legitimacy of the government.

        I think we have to be especially careful in the U.S. to differentiate between when we’re talking about our legal rights in the Constitution and our natural rights–because our Constitution does a good job of enshrining our natural rights in law. But just because the government violates our legal rights doesn’t mean it can violate our natural rights without consequence.

        Go ask the smoldering corpse of the Soviet Union if the state can completely ignore the consequences of violating people’s natural rights.

        1. The Russians seem to be ok with it,if Putin’s rating are real.

          1. There are consequences for Putin’s abuses, too, and if the reason those abuses are allowed to continue is because there is an insufficient number of people to form that critical mass who are offended when the government violates some individual’s rights (even when it’s an individual they despise), then that’s just further evidence of what I was talking about below.

            If our real protection against the abuse of our rights is social norms, and social norms in Russia are such that they’re not offended when the government violates people’s rights, then the real problem isn’t the law. Laws change in response to social norms. Segregation didn’t become socially unacceptable because of the law. The law changed because segregation became socially unacceptable.

            We certainly shouldn’t expect Putin to change before the Russian people change, and when the Russian people no longer find Putin’s sort of antics acceptable, the way the government goes about violating people’s rights will start to change.

            1. Ken,the Russians like ‘strong’ leaders,in the same way most in the Arab world,and much of the Muslim countries want the law based on the Koran.They are not like us when it comes to peoples rights.That’s why we should have been out of the Afgan war with in a year and never invaded Iraq Hell,Africa is a collection of tribes,not nations.They do not have our values or abide by NAP.

              1. Even IF IF IF what you’re saying is true, they had to abandon authoritarian communism anyway. The consequences of violating people’s rights simply made an authoritarian and communist government unsustainable over the long haul.

                Same thing happened in China. They had to change their system to accommodate some tolerance for an individual’s rights, or the CCP would have ended up on the ash heap of history. Even now, the CCP may find that their perestroika efforts were insufficient to save them. They may find that the consequences of violating people’s civil rights are simply too grave–and they’ll have to give in to glasnost. They just unveiled a “two child” policy!

                There are consequences to violating people’s rights–even if the consequences are only limited to eroding the legitimacy of the government, that would be substantial by itself. I remember when people used to criticize the Muslim world for never having had a protest movement like MLK or Gandhi. Yet once the people of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Syria decided they were going to peacefully protest–no matter how many times the vicious dictators shot at them–those dictatorships imploded.

                They’ve done the same thing in Romania, Argentina, India, the American South, and elsewhere.

                1. Natural rights can be ignored and violated by the government–but not without consequences. Just like you can ignore the laws of gravity–but not without consequences. Learning from suffering those consequences is how our Constitution and its protection for our natural rights in law evolved. We made tons of mistakes, and we will continue to do so.

                  And the rest of the world is under the same constraints–both economic and cultural. They’ll all continue to evolve–in fits and starts–and they’ll all have to learn to conform and be in harmony with natural rights in order to survive and thrive. Natural rights are not theoretical because violating them has predictable and consistent results in the real world. No one’s ever taken a picture of a graviton, but since we see the effects of gravity all around us, we know it’s real.

                  It’s the law that’s a fantasy. It changes over time to conform with natural rights.

        2. Never talk about natural rights, because nothing factual can be said about them.

          1. You don’t think violating people’s natural rights to, say, free speech, own a gun, or buy things in a market situation has predictable and consistent consequences?

            I think people have a right to choose their own intoxicants, and violating that right by way of the Drug War has predictable and consistent consequences cross culturally everywhere in the world.

            1. Those “violations” have observable consequences which are predictable only statistically, & even then usually only in the same trivial way that thwarting anyone’s will, whether righteous or not, does. So disallowing someone to speak, have a gun, or buy stuff result in that particular someone’s being unhappy about the person who does the disallowing. But disallowing someone to steal from you also makes the thief unhappy about you. The general consequences you’re thinking of that make entire popul’ns statistically less happy can only be seen when averaged out over large aggregates of pops. & times. Talking about those tendencies in terms of “natural right” only obscures the analysis & tends to drive it off course when somebody looks for predicted consequences with the assurance you assert.

          2. And by the same token, never talk about socialism, because nothing factual can be said about it. Arguing over premises is often fruitless, but connecting abstract principles with real-world applications is the substance of humanistic debate.

            1. It woks well ,till you run out of other peoples money,huh

              1. Right. But if you can’t talk about the principles, then it all just looks like “bad luck”. Maybe Robert had a deeper point, but all I have to go on are his words.

            2. No, you can say things about -isms because they act like -isms (tendencies), not like rights.

  7. I don’t know that the Constitution got in the way of of the government’s violation of our rights before they happened. I can think of First Amendment, Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment, and Eighth Amendment violations that happened during the War on Terror–everything from banning advertisements that might offend Muslims, monitoring our communications without warrants, denying people the benefit of a trial, much less an attorney, assassinating U.S. citizens, and the use of torture.

    If and when those practices ended, it often wasn’t so much that the courts forced the executive to conform to the Constitution so much as violating the Constitution became a source of embarrassment to the executive. This is to say that the real power of the Constitution may not be in its influence on the courts in times of crisis. The real power of the Constitution may be in its influence on social norms. As long as a critical mass of us are sufficiently offended when the government violates our Constitutional rights, there is good reason to believe the executive will eventually be embarrassed into returning to Constitutional social norms.

    Some examples: What did more to limit the NSA, the courts or the embarrassment caused by Snowden? What did more to address the subject of torture, the courts or the embarrassing photographs that came out of Abu Ghraib?

    1. As long as a critical mass of us are sufficiently offended when the government violates our Constitutional rights

      uhhhh, about that…

      1. It’s the real threat to our Constitutional rights. That’s why these anti-free speech college kids are America’s most horrible people.

        1. Exactly. They (and the neocons) concern me far more than the Islamists, who may be capable of inflicting some physical damage, but not capable by themselves of creating permanent damage to our Constitutional rights.

    2. You’re correct, the courts can’t be relied on. What do you expect from a judiciary that takes off their robes on Friday and plays golf with the politicians who write the unconstitutional laws on Sunday?

      Social pressure is a more effective tool so long as the public understands their constitutional rights and cares about them. I don’t know if that can be relied on with the way things appear to be going.

      1. I’d say no. I think it’s time to run away to a tropical paradise. I may not have rights there but at least I won’t have cold weather.

      2. Can’t they be friends? It’s not like they’re being bribed. I think it’s a good thing that people can go to court & remain friends, & friendly w the judge, whether they win or lose.

        1. In other words, it’s a good thing we don’t take such matters & events personally.

    3. Wicker v Filburn anyone? My grandparents had to destroy some of their crops.

      1. I’m not arguing that the government won’t continue to violate people’s rights. I’m saying that the embarrassment for doing so is what tends to make things return to social norms afterwards.

        There’s a reason why we didn’t inter Muslims during the War on Terror like we did the Japanese (and others) during World War II. I don’t think that reason is because of the warmness in Dick Cheney’s heart.

        I think the reason we didn’t inter Muslims during the War on Terror is because doing so was socially unacceptable to a critical mass of Americans–especially after having been embarrassed by what we did with internment camps during World War II.

        If the government is still free to violate your grandparents’ rights by way of Filburn, it’s because there isn’t a sufficient critical mass of people who care about that particular right yet. Creating that critical mass is the real solution–change by way of elections and laws comes after that.

        Incidentally, wanting to create a critical mass to care about rights like that is an excellent reason to give money to Reason. Being the conscience of the nation about violating people’s rights by pricking the public’s conscience is a big part of what being a libertarian is about.

        1. There’s a reason why we didn’t inter Muslims during the War on Terror like we did the Japanese (and others) during World War II.

          Yeah. We made everyone get groped and take off their shoes… much better!

  8. Strange that the U.S. Constitution provides specific definition of both what treason is and the legal test for it in court perfectly valid for our modern world, yet Cruz et al do not seem to notice.

  9. Executive Gun Control Coming ‘Soon After New Year’s Day’…..years-day/

    I wonder what the U.S. would look like with a Constitution?

  10. Thanks to the exertions of Anthony Fisher

    12-22-15. Never forget.

  11. Well, in fairness, it’s not like our Constitution has stopped the excesses of government…

    I mean, has any provision of the PATRIOT Act been found unconstitutional? Even the warrantless mass surveillance was found to be merely in violation of the Act, not the Constitution itself.

    We’ve imprisoned hundreds of people without charges and without a declaration of war, in violation of the Geneva Conventions and in violation of any reasonable interpretation of the Constitution (that SCOTUS had said it’s okay to do so is not reasonable).

    I could go on but it will just make me pissed off.

    1. something, something, suicide pact

    2. “But whether the Constitution really be one thing, or another, this much is certain – that it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case it is unfit to exist.”

      ? Lysander Spooner, No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority

  12. Had my first hiccup with my new Vape.

    1. I’m glad it wasn’t a video of it blowing up in your face.

  13. “Somebody will say, ‘Oh, freedom of speech, freedom of speech,'” Trump said at a Dec. 7 rally. “These are foolish people.”

    Worth repeating.

  14. “crimes against the state.”

    ALWAYS a good trash-bin of ‘stuff the gov’t doesn’t like’

  15. It’s weird that you think the US Constitution mattered that much after 9/11.

  16. clearly in violation, in my personal opinion, of that oath which they swore when they became citizens.

    Leaving aside the oath I allegedly swore; what about that oath you swore as a public servant(!) to protect the Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic?

  17. Lafayette never went abroad in search of monsters.

  18. “People who are serving foreign powers ? or in this case, foreign terrorists

    So Hillary should be stripped of her citizenship?

  19. At least the French are doing something!!

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