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The Ghost of Col. Dalrymple

April 21, 2013

Boston was haunted by a familiar spirit the week of April 15th.  The ghost of Col. Dalrymple, late commander of the British ‘Redcoat’ battalions sent by King George III to enforce martial law in rebellious Boston, lives again, in the de facto martial law that descended upon the seat of the American Revolution as militarized police conducted house-to-house searches for the terrorist bombers of the Boston Marathon.  (That terrorists deserve to be caught and punished swiftly – and capitally – is not in dispute here.)

It is a well-established principle in America that search and seizure proceed from probable cause alone; that the military does not have civilian law enforcement authority (militarized police who are trained, uniformed and armed as soldiers are, de facto, soldiers, regardless of their titular status); martial law and the suspension of our Constitutional (and for that matter, natural and Common Law) rights cannot happen if the courts – and thus the system of justice – are in operation.  We decided that,once and for all – or so one would have thought – with the Posse Comitatus Act (1878 – the military does  not do domestic law enforcement) and Ex Parte Milligan (1866 – no martial law while the courts remain in session).

There was nothing like this after the much-deadlier Oklahoma City after a much-deadlier bombing; New York City did not shut down after 9/11; none of the other mass shooting events of recent memory resulted in martial law.  Americans of all political persuasions ought to engage in private and public soul-searching about these events; as a nation we have to decide if we think that our liberty is more precious than a spurious ‘security’ to be purchased by its’ surrender.  If we do not have this debate,then the question will be settled in the negative, as silence in the face of these actions by our government equals consent.

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