Future American Lawyers Take a Stand for Freedom

April 24, 2006

By Tom DeWeese

Many patriotic Americans have rightly worried about the nation’s future in the hands of today’s younger generation. Proven time and again is their lack of understanding for American ideals and principles of limited government, thanks to a woefully inadequate education from government schools.

However, such fears received at least a small reprieve on January 24, 2006, when a group of law students at Georgetown University Law School staged a dramatic protest during a speech by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Gonzales was on the campus to defend the Bush Administration’s use of domestic spying. As the Attorney General began his remarks, more that twenty law students stood and turned their backs on him as others unfurled a sign which read, “Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither,” a paraphrase of a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin.

Prior to becoming Attorney General, Gonzales helped write the infamous Patriot Act (which has no definition of a terrorist) and has been an outspoken supporter of increased surveillance on American citizens, all in the name of fighting terrorism. Gonzales has called the Geneva Convention, which has historically held nation’s accountable for prisoner of war treatment, “quaint,”

The Attorney General has argued that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) does not apply in the Bush Administration’s domestic spying. FISA clearly requires executive branch agencies to get approval for domestic surveillance requests from a special court, whose proceedings are secret and protect national security.

So, the law students at Georgetown decided to let the Attorney General know they weren’t supporters of Gonzales’ brand of law, and staged their protest. Afterwards, a panel of experts was held to discuss what Gonzales had said. Members of the panel tore away at Gonzales’ argument while supporting the student’s actions.

Said Georgetown law professor and panel member David Cole, “When you’re a law student, they tell you that if you can’t argue the law, argue the facts. They also tell you if you can’t argue the facts, argue the law. If you can’t argue either, apparently, the solution is to go on a public relations offensive and make it a political issue (and) to say over and over again ‘it’s lawful,’ and to think that the American people will somehow come to believe this if we say it often enough.” Concluded Cole, “In light of this, I’m proud of the very civil civil disobedience that was shown here today.”

No American should blindly accept reduction of their liberty simply because a government official says so. The choice is a nation of laws or a nation of whims. No liberty is possible with the latter, no matter how important the cause.

At Georgetown University, at least on this day, there were students who understood the difference – and that bodes well for the future of freedom.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.