The Right to Remain Silent

Sep 14 2010 Published by under politics

Found this great piece where one citizen blogger describes being detained by Customs and Border Protection officers for refusing to answer questions when he returned from vacation. This should be taught in Civics classes, or whatever they call it these days. From my newest read-daily-blog, Knife Tricks. [found by way of Boing Boing]

The bottom line here is a U.S. citizen’s only obligations upon re-entering the country are to show proof of citizenship and declare goods purchased overseas. You may be questioned if your citizenship documents are suspect, however, that’s it. As the author says, “You don’t have to answer questions about where you went, why you went, who you saw, etc.” Further, there is no situation where a U.S. Citizen can be compelled to answer questions from a law enforcement officer. Even if you are under arrest, and only then after you have retained a lawyer. Given the U.S. government’s continued assault on the rights of its citizens since 9/11, I think the author demonstrates a much-needed reminder. Even those who are aware of their rights are often afraid to exercise them in the current political climate.

I’m surprised so many commenters on both the author’s blog and the Boing Boing piece took issue with the writer. If you don’t use rights, you lose them. Unless citizens push back against the government, the government will continue to repeal our rights. The government used 9/11 to begin a rollback of the rights of U.S. citizens. The attack has continued in the face of complete absence of opposition, let alone just some kind of questioning of the government’s self-appointed authority.

When the Bill of Rights was written into the Constitution, it was because the people agitated for those amendments. We now find ourselves at a point in history when the citizens no longer actively assert their rights. This has created an atmosphere in which the government is grabbing at our rights. At one time, even just the attempt would have been unthinkable.

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