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Civil liberties are left out of the 2012 Democratic Platform

The 2008 Democratic Platform promised, “We will restore our constitutional traditions, and recover our nation’s founding commitment to liberty under law.”

It was a platform in direct reaction to the eight year presidency of George W. Bush, rejecting the retraction of privacy and civil liberties that occurred during the War on Terror in reaction to Sept. 11. The Democratic platform offered an alternative to the security policies of Bush, insisting on the preservation of our civil liberties.


The issue of civil liberties, which Democrats have long championed, is noticeably absent from the 2012 Democratic Platform. A stark contrast to the platform of 2008.

“We reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime,” reads the 2008 platform. However, the Wall Street Journal reported that last year alone, the FBI made 16,511 national security letter requests.

The 2012 Democratic Platform does not mention national security letters at all.

In 2008, Obama — the supposed Bill of Rights protector and constitutional law scholar — and his party’s platform promised, “We will revisit the Patriot Act and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years.” Since that time, President Obama signed an extension of the Patriot Act, which Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) commented, “does not include a single improvement or reform.”

The 2012 Democratic Platform is noticeably void of any mention of reforming or repealing the Patriot Act, indicating that they’re now totally comfortable with any invasion of privacy it entails.

Gitmo is still alive and well despite the 2008 platform promise of Democrats, “We will close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, the location of so many of the worst constitutional abuses in recent years.”

At least this issue is addressed in the 2012 platform, which nonetheless lacks much of the bite of 2008, “We remain committed to working with all branches of government to close the prison altogether because it is inconsistent with our national security interests and our values.” But if you’re in Gitmo, don’t hold your breath.

“We will respect the time-honored principle of habeas corpus, the seven century-old right of individuals to challenge the terms of their own detention,” reads the 2008 platform — yet on the New Year’s Eve of 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, codifying the executive’s authority to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial.

The 2012 Democratic Platform now makes no mention of habeus corpus, which makes sense, given that — according to the NDAA — the right of due process no longer exists.


The 2012 Republican Platform is almost equally as silent on civil liberties, save one important stand against the domestic use of unmanned drones.

“We support pending legislation to prevent unwarranted or unreasonable governmental intrusion through the use of aerial surveillance or flyovers on U.S. soil, with the exception of patrolling our national borders.”

Given the expansion of the use of UAV’s (which is now four times as large as under Bush) and their recent implementation domestically, this platform plank is a refreshing alternative to what ultimately seems like concurrent positions by the two parties on the issue of civil liberties in their 2012 platforms — which can basically be summed up as “civil-what’s?”

So where is our choice if some of us choose, as I’d like to, to stand against warrantless government data surveillance, repealing the Patriot Act and securing our writ of habeus corpus?

Is the left now supporting the same knee-jerk, neo-conservative, liberty destroying War on Terror as the right?

In his address to the nation after the towers fell on Sept. 11, President Bush claimed we were attacked because the terrorists hated our freedoms.

But fighting this War on Terror has restricted our freedoms and civil liberties more than any other single event in our nation’s history. We’ve been destroying the very thing we were trying to protect.

Neither party is fighting for our privacy or civil liberties, both platforms remain noticeably silent on the issue — surprising given the Democrats championed it in 2008.

We used to be told we had to choose between the false dichotomy of liberty or security — today, we don’t even get a choice. Whether our next president is Republican or Democrat, the Bush-era civil liberty atrocities are here to stay.

Editorial Editor Kevin Jensen is a senior English major. His column appears Tuesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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