One of the acts that would eventually spark the War for American Independence was when the British government authorized Writs of Assistance to British officers in the colonies. This gave government the power to search any residence or business without any warning, supervision or rules. Soldiers were allowed to walk from door-to-door, house-to-house, searching and confiscating property to their hearts’ content.
As is always the case with government power, this policy was widely abused. When the Founding Fathers drafted and ratified the U.S. Constitution, they included the Fourth Amendment — the prohibition of search and seizure — to guarantee that no such affronts to liberty would happen again.
That is, if we follow the Constitution.
Today, we see a government agency that thinks its has the power to search citizens by going from phone-to-phone, gathering any-and-all data to examine to their hearts’ content. The National Security Agency phone scandal is precisely the sort of government action the Founding Fathers fought a revolution to stop and why we celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.
We also have an Internal Revenue Service that targets political dissidents, which is a direct violation of the First Amendment. A Department of Justice that seizes journalists’ phone records without a warrant, which is a violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence would be appalled.
Another reason we fought the revolution was to prevent government oppression of protest, with perhaps the Boston Massacre being the most famous example.
In Egypt, protest is met with tear gas, manufactured in America and paid for with American taxes. When Egyptians protest, they protest against their government and also America for subsidizing that government.
Despite the fact that Mohamed Morsi recently convicted 16 Americans of political crimes in a show trial, the Obama administration still sent them over $2 billion this year.
American tax dollars flow no matter which despot rules.
Hosni Mubarak brutally suppressed protest over three decades of martial law. Yet, we sent him some $60 billion, much of which was stolen by Mr. Mubarak and his family.
Mr. Mubarak abused his citizens and his own power, yet we gave him billions of dollars and advanced weaponry, including F-16 jets. Mr. Mubarak would eventually use those jets to intimidate the protesters who would eventually end his regime.
Today, we give the same billions and fighter jets to Mr. Mubarak’s successor, Mr. Morsi, who the protesters now see in the same light as Mr. Mubarak.
But worse, due to our aid and support, Egyptians see Mr. Morsi and America as the same.
Some American politicians never know when to say no. Three prominent interventionists called for arming Moammar Gadhafi the year before they called for arming the Libyan Islamists rebels who overthrew Gadhafi. Which Islamic rebels killed the American ambassador? No one seems to know and no one has been brought to justice. Often, today’s “rebels” can become tomorrow’s tyrants, and vice versa.
Persistent and perpetual intervention inevitably leads to American dollars flowing to despots.
How does it look to the world when we celebrate independence and freedom in our own country while aiding and abetting dictators and despots who deny liberty to their own people?
Now, Mr. Morsi has been ousted due to massive protests — and we subsidized his government the entire time he was in power.
In all likelihood, we will continue to finance the military junta that replaces him.
Why? To what end?
People must fight for their own freedom. We fought for it in our own country, even as we see today’s government so often betraying the Founders’ vision. We see people fighting for freedom in other countries, even as US interventions work to stifle their efforts.
This week, as we commemorate our independence from England 237 years ago, we must remind our leaders that they took an oath to the Constitution that we expect them to keep. This government does not have the power to spy on citizens without a warrant. It cannot target political protesters, journalists or anyone who dares to dissent.
We also have a responsibility not to aid despots around the world, as people in those countries continue to fight their own struggles. America is at her best when we lead by example, not by force, and certainly not when we send F-16s to dictators to squelch dissent.
The Declaration of Independence states “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
It is up to us as Americans to constantly remind our leaders that without our consent, they have no power. It is also up to people in other countries to fight their own battles, to give their own consent and to create their own governments.
You cannot give a people liberty. They must fight for it themselves.
You also cannot constantly fight other peoples’ battles. We have plenty of battles to fight right here at home.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.