COLUMN: Let's Get Philosophical

Written by Jess Jones on . Posted in Politics

Jess Jones

Jess Jones

Every once in a while, I have this strange craving to be philosophical and talk about really complicated issues. So readers beware, this installment may not be to your liking (unless you get a thrill from discussing civil rights for detainees.)

On July 6th, Justice Department lawyers told courts that detainee Richard Reid will be given “new placement” from under his Special Administrative Measures (SAM). For those who don’t speak prison lingo, SAMs are security directives that are issued when there is “substantial risk that a prisoner’s communications, correspondence or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury” to others.

Recently, Reid’s SAMs were allowed to expired, giving him greater ability to communicate more freely with the outside world. Reid was originally arrested in 2001 for attempting to blow up an airliner traveling from Paris to Miami. He has since been held at the Administrative Maximum (ADX) Penitentiary in Florence, Colo. While imprisoned there, Reid’s SAMs were in place to restrict him from communicating with others and potentially helping coordinate further strikes against the United States. His SAMs were tightened in 2006 when three detainees not subjected to the security directives received communication via mail from terrorist networks involved in several major attacks throughout Europe.

However, Reid filed a lawsuit against the federal government, stating the SAMs violated his First Amendment rights to participate in “group prayers” prescribed by his religion. Keep in mind that these group prayers were with other convicted al-Qaida A-listers.  The case was originally dismissed but, after conducting a self-imposed 58-day hunger strike, Reid’s SAMs were removed under the Obama administration. Although no one has ever escaped from ADX, Reid is the first one to sue his way out.

Should foreign detainees, like Reid, be able to advocate the protection of rights granted by the United States? Are they protected under the constitution? Again, this a huge philosophy question and it really depends on what you feel should happen, so it is really up to you and your thoughts on the issue.

The Declaration of Independence states that “all men are created equal” and that they are “endowed with certain unalienable rights.” “Governments are established among men” to secure these rights. Yet to whom does the security of these rights extend: to everyone or to Americans only? The Constitution, created under these principles of securing liberties, provides for the freedom of religion and speech. But are all men, be they American citizens or not, entitled to sue the U.S. government for a protection of these rights?

In my opinion, protection by any system of government comes as a benefit of compliance to the essential ground rules set forth by that government. The government’s power to protect those rights is granted by the consent of the governed, which includes those that prescribe themselves to be governed by that establishment. Granted, the voice of the people may feel that these rights extend to others who don’t live directly under the rule of our government, but do they apply to those who are openly opposing the U.S. and potentially intend to harm American citizens?

If a potentially dangerous detainee, such as Reid, has openly expressed his opposition towards the U.S. and is affiliating with other individuals guilty of terrorist attacks, why should the U.S. government concede to grant him any rights that might assist him in the attacking of other people?

The directives restraining Reid were released after his 58-day hunger strike, but I still feel that a man’s self-deprivation of nourishment should not be cause for the government to give into his demands. What should any responsible parent do when their child throws a tantrum? Definitely not give in. If he wants to die of malnourishment, it wouldn’t be the government’s fault. After all, it is his choice.

It’s hard for me to see the logic in allowing a person, man or woman, to expect protection under a government which he or she intends to attack. It seems absurd for anyone to pick and choose the portions of the American political system they wish to follow. Reid may be advocating his right to free speech and religion, but you can almost assuredly bet he disagrees with the majority of other rights proffered us by the Constitution.  America was not made for picky people.

This is a very difficult issue to grasp completely and it’s harder still to justify any argument. I’m extremely interested in hearing the views and opinions of others regarding the matter. My hope is to publish a follow up article in response to the arguments and comments to this article. Please don’t hesitate to leave yours thoughts in the space below.

Jess Jones is a conservative political columnist for Rhombus. If you couldn’t tell, he’s an aspiring constitutional lawyer.


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