Many Americans believe the Constitution's first ten amendments ensure individual protection from all sorts of government abuse and interference. The hard truth is that irrespective of the Constitution government officials have always taken whatever action was perceived as necessary to maintain the status quo. In fact the Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 and by 1798 the Alien and Sedition Acts expediently set aside first amendment rights and due process in order to imprison people for "utterances against the government"—perceived as necessary for a time during that part of history now frequently referred to as the "Age of Atlantic Revolutions". Constitutional authority Arthur Selwyn Miller called bending of the rules in this fashion "government relative to circumstance" and noted it to be characteristic of America from the outset. In fact his 1980 book entitled Democratic Dictatorship maintains that the United States has never been governed by the written constitution but by a "living constitution" as enigmatic as its interpretations and implementation.
In 1914 Roy Olmstead, "King of the Puget Sound Bootleggers", was caught up in a federal law enforcement snare and indicted along with more than 70 excise-avoiding associates engaged in illegal traditions dating back to the Washington administration's 1794 levy of a whiskey tax. Even back then federal authorities were predisposed to believe themselves above the law and in Olmsted's case used wiretaps not approved by judicial authority in order to obtain incriminating evidence—arguably an illegal tactic in perhaps more egalitarian times. Subsequently King Roy futilely challenged government eavesdropping methodology all the way to the Supreme Court. One final paragraph of Associate Justice Brandeis' dissenting opinion is now well-known:
"Decency, security and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our Government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means—to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal—would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this Court should resolutely set its face."
Nevertheless government officials were not held accountable in 1914 and wiretapping continued unrestrained until 1967 when the Warren Supreme Court sided with a bookie transmitting illegal wagers coast-to-coast from government-monitored public pay phones. Regrettably the progress made by the Warren court between 1961and 1969 toward civil and individual rights has been effectively canceled and nullified by modern anti-terrorism legislation like AUMF, PATRIOT, and NDAA 2012. This legislation has prevailed because State policies and actions including legislative efforts typically are self-serving and seldom produce benefit, or have independent merit, outside of nourishing the organization of political means. Likewise when government officials, employees, or agents make inexcusable blunders detrimental to citizens' lives, liberties, properties, or pursuits of happiness, the aftermath's focus invariably becomes damage control and self-preservation rather than justice. Examples are everywhere but two of the more horrific incidents over the past twenty years were the needless tragedies of 1992 and 1993 in Caribou Ridge, Idaho, AKA Ruby Ridge, and Waco, Texas..
In 1992, with criminal charges threatened against Lon Horiuchi, the highly-trained FBI sniper who shot Vicki Weaver in the head at Ruby Ridge and later claimed it unintentional, the Constitution's Article VI "supremacy clause" was successfully invoked to preclude prosecution. And despite a preponderance of circumstantial evidence indicating high probabilities that federal marshals used a silenced submachine gun to shoot 13 year old Sammy Weaver in the back, the prime suspected perpetrator of that incident was, with whitewashing pomp and circumstance, cited for bravery. Read 1998 title The Federal Siege At Ruby Ridge by Randy and Sara Weaver to see what transpired as witnessed through the eyes of the federally demonized victims. Diligent unofficial investigative efforts have not yet revealed a satisfactory explanation as to why federal agents wearing camouflage and carrying silenced submachine guns were dispatched in force for weeks to a rural family's home in redressing a man's failure to appear in court over trumped-up charges—all at taxpayer expense.
Swift, harsh, and certain punishment for government wrongdoing in Idaho might have prevented the debacle at Waco, Texas, about 6 months later where similar government operations early in 1993 bore analogous but tragically more savage results on an expanded scale. Seventy six members of a federally-demonized religious cult, including men, women and children, were assaulted by overwhelming federal force, including armed tanks of military purview, and lost their lives infernally—and once again unnecessarily according to now widely-accepted facts, although neither courts nor congressional hearings meted out appropriate punishments against federal officials since the status quo always is protected irrespective of costs.
It is generally recognized that Timothy McVeigh was suffering an "exaggerated sense of justice" over these two unrequited militarized incidents when he bombed a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. In his pre-sentencing comments he used two sentences from Brandeis' 1914 dissenting opinion—presumably to underscore the implicit contention that his actions were retaliatory employing learned techniques from what he considered to be government crimes. Whether or not properly chastising agents for actions in Idaho would have precluded both Waco and Oklahoma City tragedies, government admissions of wrong surely would have instilled significant lasting pride back into the American psyche. Many US citizens are ashamed of fashionable self-serving federal policies both at home and abroad. Some earthlings, even some Americans, still favor human rights, accountability, and due process over militarism and de facto tyranny. However government admission of wrongdoing is detrimental to the organization of political means unless necessary to control public outcry. More often the official steamroller just keeps on a-trucking.
Both Ruby Ridge and Waco were high-profile militarized law enforcement operations. Militarization of American law enforcement gained impetus in 1988 with US Code modifications requiring the Secretary of Defense, "in cooperation with the Attorney General, to conduct annual briefings of law enforcement personnel of each State (including law enforcement personnel of the political subdivisions of each State) regarding information, training, technical support, and equipment and facilities available to civilian law enforcement personnel from DOD"—arguably unconstitutional long-term policies encouraging integration of military tools, methodology, and training into civilian law enforcement perhaps only to expand the military-industrial customer base and sphere of influence. Once the US Code was modified, it took less than four years to experience frightful results of militarization. And nowadays "occupy movement" crowd-control-police in the streets of major cities look like Darth Vader stand-ins itching to confront opposing force—as long as it is less well-trained and poorly armed. Contemporary law enforcement like today's military seldom seems accountable to anyone.
In the decades preceding America's entry into WWII, Germany was arguably the planet's most advanced society despite permitting incremental encroachment of government into private lives as orchestrated by arguably demented and psychopathic leaders. Nowadays the United States, the planet's acknowledged paragon of republican democracy, no longer assures its citizenry any modicum of privacy or even basic individual, civil, or human rights. So-called anti-terrorism legislation pretty much assures federal agent impunity irrespective of circumstance. Just a few short years ago a man's home was considered his castle not to be invaded without proper judicial warrant which required certain reasonable evidence of specific need. Nowadays the castle doctrine is toast as well as judicial oversight of federal warrants. "Innocent until proven guilty" of course has no place in extraordinary rendition (kidnapping), torture, and clandestine incarceration of individuals suspected of conspiracy. And likely King Roy Olmstead would not approve of federal roving wiretaps either because they monitor non-specific places, facilities, and individuals. The land of the free and the home of the brave isn't anymore, which is tragic, although analogous collective efforts of man have never withstood the test of time.