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Editorial: Hold authorities accountable

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | NOVEMBER 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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The basis of any functioning society is a clearly defined social contract rooted in trust, transparency, and accountability between the general population and the governing bodies. The suspension of civil liberties and freedoms has been and will always be a precursor to tyranny. We speak of the boogeymen that rule totalitarian regimes in other countries, but we are quickly coming to the crossroads in which that same scrutiny will have to placed on our own leaders. Lately, there has been a disturbing pattern of abuse of power by those entrusted to protect and represent the interests of the people. When a disparity forms between the citizens and those responsible for maintaining order in the social contract, the possibility for oppression becomes a real and tangible threat.

The shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by police Officer Darren Wilson has been plastered across screens all over the nation for months, and more unsettling news has come to light in Ferguson. A no-fly zone was established on behalf of local law enforcement in Ferguson under the pretense that there was an imminent threat to police helicopters from militant protesters.

However, it was later revealed that the true motivation for this no-fly zone was actually intended to stifle the media’s access to Ferguson. The police in Ferguson have been criticized for their heavy-handed response to the string of protests that erupted in the weeks following the death of Brown. It should be common sense that the police using a false threat to public safety as a guise to limit press coverage of a controversial nationwide issue is wrong. Such a misuse of power is blatant indication of a frightening trend that has become all too common.

The problem of overstepping civil liberties has not been limited to law enforcement, and it can also be attributed to notable government agencies such as the National Security Agency. It is hard to forget the scandal that came about when a former consultant for the NSA made public the mass compilation of phone records being gathered by the agency. The issue is not whether this specific incident is a violation of the Fourth Amendment but rather, if this will set a precedent on what the government and other institutions will be authorized to do in the future. The issue of whether these actions were constitutional will be decided in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals this week.

While there is no indication as to how long it will take to reach a decision or what that decision may be, the American people need to fight for increased accountability and transparency now. The deliberate dismantling of the individual right to freedom occurs slowly, and all that is required for it to become prevalent is the apathy of the people. Through the decisions we make as a whole, we have the power to decide what kind of world we want to live in. The government and institutions such as law enforcement were designed to serve and protect us, and they still can as long we do our part in holding them accountable for their actions.


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