Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s civil liberties must be protected

Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people and maimed hundreds more when he used a fertilizer bomb to attack a federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev allegedly murdered three people and maimed nearly 200 with a bomb inside a pressure cooker at the Boston Marathon on April 15

Both McVeigh and Tsarnaev are American citizens. McVeigh was afforded due process and his guilt was proven after a fair trial. He was put to death a few years ago and is currently suffering in horrible burning agony in Hell, where he will continue to suffer in horrible burning agony for all eternity. So why can we not treat Tsarnaev the same way we treated McVeigh? What is dramatically different about the cases of McVeigh and Tsarnaev?

According to several Republican lawmakers, Tsarnaev should be treated as an “unlawful enemy combatant,” at least for the purposes of interrogation. As Radley Balko pointed out over the weekend, the notion that we have rights until it is inconvenient means we have no rights at all. Fortunately, the Obama administration has rejected this suggestion and will prosecute Tsarnaev through our civilian justice system.

September 11 was a traumatic event and it demonstrated we have to take Islamic terrorism seriously. However, our reaction to 9/11 has led to troubling results, as we have seen here. There is far too much irrational fear and hysteria surrounding the War on Terror, and making policy out of fear is dangerous. If we give up our civil liberties in response to a terrorist attack designed to spread fear and paranoia, we are giving the terrorists exactly what they want. To put it bluntly, if John McCain gets what he wants then the terrorists win.

I enthusiastically support the death penalty for murderers, and if Tsarnaev is convicted after a fair trial by a jury of his peers then he should be put to death as commanded by Almighty God in Genesis 9:6. But we should not forget that he is innocent until proven guilty. We need to take every precaution to make sure he actually is guilty and not give in to the temptation to take shortcuts, with the goal being justice – not a conviction.

We also need to remember that once the precedent is established that the Constitution can be ignored for an American citizen arrested on American soil, that precedent can (and will) be used in more destructive ways in the future. A government that ignores the rule of law is more dangerous to our liberty (and our security) than any terrorist or foreign aggressor could ever hope to be.