Watertown: Liberty And Safety

With the two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing accounted for (one dead – Tamelan, the other in custody – Dzhokhar), and more details of the story emerging, I’ve been spending some time thinking about the issues of liberty and security, considering the breadth and scope of the massive manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers.


It’s been well documented that most of Boston was shut down, and Watertown was eventually under lockdown as well, with streets barricaded,  and public transportation shut down. Further:

Massachusetts State Police issued a plea on Twitter for residents of Watertown to lock their doors and not open them for anyone, as dozens of police officers, many of them off duty, searched backyards and exteriors of houses there, and a police perimeter of several blocks was established.

 Worried residents were also told to turn off their cell phones out of fear that they could trigger improvised explosive devices.

No doubt it was a tense time as authorities were searching for Dzhokhar; who knew what kind of IEDs or other weapons he was carrying, or what he might do to escape. Governor Deval Patrick (D) even issued a “shelter in place” or lockdown order for the area. However, as far as I know, such an order does not equal Martial Law and signal a suspension of habeas corpus and other civil liberties (and as far as I know, the military can’t get involved in domestic law enforcement without congressional approval).

The reason I bring this up is because it appears that contrary to many news reports, the searches conducted by the police were not only of backyards and house exteriors, but also of the inside of houses as well. Judging by the video below, it also appears that these home searches were not necessarily voluntary:

 I’ll be honest, the sight of these homeowners being led out of their house at gunpoint with their arms raised like common criminals – for nothing more than the “crime” of being at home is a bit disturbing to me, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a search warrant presented at any time. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I have no idea what’;s going on up close or inside the house. It could very well be that the homeowners were more than happy to volunteer for the search, and have agreed to be led out as they were in the interest of public safety. It could also very well be that the “shelter in place” order includes some sort of blanket search warrant.
But then again, it sure didn’t look like it.
 Of course everyone was relieved when the ordeal was over and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was caught:

Watertown residents–finally able to leave their homes around 8:45 p.m.–broke into cheers and applauded police officers after word spread that the suspect was in custody.

“We’re so grateful to bring justice and closure to this case,” Alben said at a 9:30 p.m. press conference. “We’re exhausted … but we have a victory here tonight.” Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said he could find no explanation for the “savagery” of the attacks, but that the capture made him proud to be a Boston police officer.

No doubt it was a time when we could all take a collective sigh of relief and get back to a sense of normalcy. Most praised the hard work of law enforcement officers in apprehending the suspect; but considering the above video, at what price? Events like these always lead me back to Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote:
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Maybe I’m overreacting, but after our liberties were eroded after 9/11 with the Patriot and similar legislation that have “protected” us by giving us the TSA among others, I guess I’m particularly sensitive to a possible slippery slope, especially since the current administration adhere’s to the “never let a good crisis go to waste” philosophy (not to mention the various accusations that the NDAA effectively repeals the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878).
Again, maybe I’m overreacting, but I would prefer to die free than to live as a slave to the state.

6 thoughts on “Watertown: Liberty And Safety

    • Thanks for your comment, I couldn’t agree more – we all want to feel safe, but it’s disturbing to realize how quickly and willingly many will give up their freedom in pursuit of security.

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