Posted by: coastcontact | May 20, 2013

Security vs. Liberty


You probably thought that the U.S. government always honors and defends the constitution.


The Alien and Sedition Acts are passed by Congress as war with France appears imminent. The acts allow deportation and detention of aliens and prohibit malicious writings against the government.  The act was signed into law by President John Adams.  No one was prosecuted under the law.


After a series of riots in Maryland, President Lincoln suspends habeas corpus and arrests dissidents. This suspension is also used to detain influential citizens and lawmakers sympathetic to the South to prevent the state from seceding.


The Habeas Corpus Act permits suspension of habeas corpus by order of the President for the duration of the Civil War, allowing Lincoln to free or detain prisoners without trial and with impunity.


The Espionage and Sedition Acts impose severe penalties for any speech, statement or article written against or interfering with the government in wartime. As a result, union leader Eugene V. Debs is sentenced to 10 years in prison for giving an antiwar speech.


In the wake of Pearl Harbor and amid growing anti-Japanese sentiment, FDR authorizes the relocation and internment of more than 120,000 people of Japanese descent.


Unnerved by the possibility of Soviet infiltration, President Truman establishes the Federal Employee Loyalty Program, requiring all government employees to sign loyalty oaths and submit to loyalty investigations.


Congress passes the USA Patriot Act by a near unanimous vote in response to 9/11. Law­ enforcement officials gain sweeping powers to search without warrants, eavesdrop, and detain and deport terrorism suspects.


President Obama gives federal agents new powers to data-mine terrorism suspect’s devices and communications and delay reading of Miranda rights to suspects under arrest as well as new surveillance powers and the right to interview witnesses without identifying themselves as FBI agents. But Obama also backs off closer surveillance of mosques in the U.S.


  1. Thank you for your posting. I always love it when I learn something new.

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  3. habeas corpus (hay-bee-us core-puss) n. Latin for “you have the body,” it is a writ (court order) which directs the law enforcement officials (prison administrators, police, or sheriff) who have custody of a prisoner to appear in court to help the judge determine whether the prisoner is unlawfully in prison or jail. The writ is obtained by petition to a judge in the county or district where the prisoner is incarcerated, and the judge sets a hearing on whether there is a legal basis for holding the prisoner. Habeas corpus is a protection against illegal confinement, such as holding a person without charges, when due process obviously has been denied, bail is excessive, parole has been granted, an accused has been improperly surrendered by the bail bondsman, or probation has been summarily terminated without cause. Historically called “the great writ,” the renowned scholar of the Common Law, William Blackstone called it the “most celebrated writ in English law.” It may also be used as a means to contest child custody and deportation proceedings in court. The writ of habeas corpus can be employed procedurally in federal district courts to challenge the constitutionality of a state court conviction.

  4. While it could not be a brief list, it’s also not a terrifically long list.

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