Tuesday, April 23, 2013

GateHouse: The cost of fighting terror

Matthew T. Mangino
GateHouse News Service
April 22, 2013

Where do we go from here? Boston just successfully ended, arguably, the most massive and far-reaching manhunt in U.S. history. But at what cost?

No one appears to quarrel with the fact the action taken by federal, state and local law enforcement was unprecedented. As the police pursued two young, unsophisticated, homegrown terrorists an entire major city and surrounding communities were shut down. Mass transit was halted, cab service was stopped, businesses were closed and citizens — about a million and a half — were told to “shelter in place.”

From this point forward what crimes are going to merit such massive interference with civil liberties? The bombings and shoot-out were crimes and the surviving suspect is an American citizen, so what is the standard for the next horrific crime?

Last year there were six murders in Boston in the week and a half following the Boston Marathon, 52 for the entire year. The city solved only 23 of those murders. That means there are as many as 29 killers walking the streets of Boston just for killings that occurred in 2012. How many Boston Police, Massachusetts State Police and FBI agents are working on those cases?

As residents of Watertown, Cambridge and Boston cheered the police after the arrest — the investigation was amazing — did those residents really pause to think what’s at stake.

Americans have surrendered fundamental rights to the threat of crime from within and terrorism from abroad.

Slowly, but assuredly, the fear of crime and the lengths that citizens will go to avoid being victimized has had a profound impact on our lives. According to Gallup, nearly 4 in 10 Americans say they are afraid to walk alone at night within a mile of their home.

Ironically, the unrealistic fear of crime has had an enormous impact on crime. Experts may not say it and the average American may not admit it, but decreasing crime rates have come at a precious cost — the sacrifice of personal liberty.

Homes and businesses across the country have taken measures to become more secure.

What was once considered extreme is now commonplace — security systems, spotlights, motion detectors, metal gates over front doors, video surveillance, car alarms, mace, pepper spray, stun guns, hand guns, personal self-defense training, even architectural design with crime prevention in mind.

Driving around rather than through some neighborhoods, avoiding a dimly lit parking lot or spacious parking garage may be accepted as prudent. But it has nonetheless altered the freedom to live and travel as one chooses. A stroll through the park, window shopping or a trip to the ballpark involve not only the thought of being entertained but also being safe.

Most citizens are not even aware that some fundamental constitutional rights have begun to erode in the name of crime fighting. The U.S. Supreme Court has chiseled away at the Sixth Amendment guarantee of “effective” counsel, limited the application of Miranda, restricted the use of the exclusionary rule and expanded the use of warrantless searches.

In fact, the FBI made it clear that they invoked the “public safety exception” to providing Miranda warnings to captured bomber suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He is being interrogated without the aid of legal counsel.

Americans have slowly reinvented their way of life to protect themselves from the threat of violence. Americans do not seem to resist the usurpation of liberty — they seem to celebrate it.

On Friday night as Bostonians chanted “USA” after learning of the arrest of Tsarnaev they were only moments removed from looking out the windows of their homes, homes they were advised not to leave, and seeing a military presence in the streets — Humvees filled with national guardsmen scurrying about in search of an alleged terrorist.

Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly and George and the former district attorney for Lawrence County, Pa. You can read his blog at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.

The Column

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