Giving up our civil liberties and having a civil discourse

By Senator Steve Waugh

When we saw what happened in Orlando, some wept, some were outraged, some offered leadership. I expected to see our president pull this nation together against a common enemy, but he chose a different path. Let’s try to agree on some things before we throw away our civil liberties in the absence of leadership.

Three days after this attack, The New York Times wasn’t sure why the terrorist acted, “…the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear….” but they were willing to bet it was “…driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.” The Times is more interested in blaming the GOP than ISIS. This kind of manipulation is beyond the pale.

They declared it a “hate crime,” perhaps a convenient deflection from terrorism. The difference is the object of the act: if you hope to benefit you are a criminal; if you hope to instill fear, you are a terrorist. The “why” of it isn’t just important, it is everything.

No doubt about his motivation

The terrorist left no doubt about his motivation. He posted it on Facebook, Twitter, texts and phone calls to 911 and even gave a TV interview during the attack. U.S. Attorney General Lynch said that included “…this individual’s pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups…” Clearly all this information was available immediately, so the President did not give us the full truth the next day when he said, “We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.”

This man was not a criminal. He was an enemy combatant. Defined in law and by judges, an enemy combatant “…includes any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy armed forces.” When a man shoots people while declaring his dying allegiance to the ISIS caliphate, he is an enemy combatant – even if he was a U.S. citizen.

There are seven ways to voluntarily relinquish citizenship, delineated in 8 U.S. Code § 1481. He did four. There is no mistaking this man no longer saw himself as an American – he joined the war against us.

We often are blinded by our own civility. It is hard to comprehend that such evil exists: “We spilled rivers of our blood to water the seeds of the khilāfah, laid its foundation with our skulls, and built its tower over our corpses.” The tool is irrelevant – denied one weapon this kind of evil will find another, like a knife in France or nails in pressure cookers like Boston.

Our Constitution enshrines the rights we are endowed with by our Creator. Today, people suggest we should allow liberties to be taken from us by the government, which we can petition for their return after due consideration. However, that means we forfeit those civil liberties without due process, the burden for their return is on the citizen, with uncertain delay from the government.

The Terror Watchlist is referred to as if it is some specific database of suspected terrorists. If they were suspected terrorists they would be under investigation by the FBI – not on a ‘watch’ list. Because these lists are classified, the State of Maryland cannot know how people get on the list, who is on the list, nor can citizens know how to get off it. It’s important to realize that the Orlando terrorist was not on any list, or under investigation. The law being proposed would have not affected him – the very definition of feckless.

What rights we will give up

What other rights would we consider giving up to the government, to see if they returned? Your right to vote? To trial? To free assembly?

Who are we empowering with this extraordinary breech of our rights? This president, or the next? I am shocked to see my Democratic colleagues so enthusiastic to potentially trust a President Trump with their civil rights.

The President seemed more inclined to call his critics ‘yapping partisans without a strategy’ than to bring us together against this self-declared enemy. For clarity, the number of sorties we had flown against ISIS in the 644 days since he launched the fight against them equates to 20 per day: that could be handily flown by a single squadron during my service. As a benchmark, 644 days after Pearl Harbor we accepted the surrender of Italy. Talking about gun control distracts from the central issue.

I will oppose any attempt to rob us of our civil liberties, with every ounce of my being. I pray that my Democratic colleagues will be as respectful of your rights, and will set a higher standard for the debate than the New York Times.

Republican Steve Waugh represents St. Mary’s and Calvert counties in the Maryland Senate. A career Marine aviator, he served as Chief of Combat Operations for CENTCOM (Central Command) Combined Air Forces.