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Abuse of power is real, and we should beware of it.

By Scott Tibbs, February 27, 2009

In 2006, a 92-year-old woman named Kathryn Johnston was gunned down in her own home by police pursuing a bogus tip by an informant. In order to cover up the mistake and justify the shooting, they planted drugs in her home. Last Summer, the mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland had his home raided by a Sheriff's department SWAT team that shot and killed his two dogs, looking for marijuana where none existed.

If you're clean, it shouldn't affect you.

If you have nothing to hide, what are you worried about?

The above two statements are typical of some "conservatives" who justify significantly expanded government police powers, from wiretapping allowed by the "Patriot Act", collecting a DNA sample on everyone arrested for a crime or the use of paramilitary tactics in police raids. But the examples in the first paragraph (and the corrupt behavior of disgraced, disbarred ex-prosecutor Mike Nifong in the infamous fabricated "rape" of Crystal Gail Mangum) should serve as a warning that the innocent often do have something to fear from government.

We live in a great nation, but I sometimes wonder what people think is so special about the United States that we do not have to worry about the levers of power being abused by fallible human beings. Like it or not, the U.S. is not unique in human history and we are not immune to the temptations of power and corruption in high places that has led to totalitarianism and authoritarianism throughout all of human history.

This is why the system of government designed by the founding fathers is so brilliant. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights define the powers and set limitations on government, while leaving a great deal of authority in the states. There are checks and balances in the three branches of government to prevent one branch from amassing too much power. But as we trust the government to do more and more, we are sacrificing our liberty. This is especially true when it comes to the "war on crime" and the "war on drugs".

Nobody wants criminals roaming the streets unchecked, and nobody wants terrorists to have free reign to murder innocent people. We want law enforcement to have reasonable powers to put people away, and we want the government to have necessary and reasonable powers to safeguard national security. But in a nation founded on individual liberty, we cannot continue to sacrifice that liberty in the name of fighting crime or terrorism without losing the fundamental value that makes this country great to begin with: freedom.