On the recent Fox News presidential debate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie lashed out at United States Sen. Rand Paul for not supporting the NSA's surveillance program, which came off to many watching as a bully mentality and myopic prosecutorial mindset that I’m sure animates Paul’s concerns in the first place.
Whether you agree with Paul’s decision to support the freedoms protected by our Bill of Rights — such as freedom of speech and the requirement of a search warrant, and to place some limits on the otherwise un-cabined and massive NSA surveillance program is one thing. However, Christie’s rage at a U.S. senator because that senator has serious concerns over our civil liberties and made a decision that he feels would protect the freedom and liberties of his constituents, evidences precisely the prosecutorial mentality that has caused countless injustices across the country and resulted in the incarceration of thousands of people — many of whom are innocent or wrongly convicted.
During their heated exchange, Christie said one thing that perhaps was more frightening than most viewers realized. When referring to those charged with investigating threats against this nation, Christie proclaimed: “We have to give more tools to our folks to be able to do that, not fewer, and then trust those people and oversee them to do it the right way.”
That’s right — that’s exactly right, and in a perfect world, that’s exactly the way it’s supposed to work. In the aftermath of the attacks of 9/11, and months before Christie was appointed New Jersey’s U.S. attorney, I and countless other law enforcement officers supported the Patriot Act, and endorsed the NSA surveillance program, and we did so believing that the appropriate oversight would ensure compliance with the law.
We expected the First and Fourth Amendments — enforced by judicial oversight — to prevent overreaching and overzealous prosecutors from abusing these laws and their otherwise unfettered powers. However, since then, we have seen provisions of the Patriot Act used against American citizens who were not terrorists, pose no viable threat to anyone, and are merely being targeted by unscrupulous prosecutors and the Department of Justice and its agencies for political and selective reasons.
I’m sure Christie is well intended, but seems to ignore a reality that judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals and countless others have revealed over the past several years, and that is that there is a plethora of increasing evidence that overzealous and over-reaching prosecutors are violating laws themselves, and there is neither oversight nor existing remedy to appropriately hold them accountable.
I was there on 9/11, both during and in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center. I spent 10 years of my life, living and working in the Middle East and know and understand the threats we face from radical Islamic terror far better than most Americans. I have personally witnessed death so barbaric that it would haunt most men, and I have nearly died for this country more times that I can count — all out of love for this country.
But, unfortunately, I have also witnessed firsthand that deprivation of liberty by overzealous and over-reaching prosecutors and the irreparable toll they take on people that they wrongfully target and prosecute, and the innocent families and children that they destroy, so I know exactly what Rand Paul is concerned with and for more reasons than I can count, I am no longer confident that Americans’ freedoms and liberties are adequately protected under the law.
There is no greater threat to a free and democratic nation like ours than a government that fails to protect its citizens' freedoms and liberties as aggressively as it pursues justice.
Christie’s desire to protect this country is admirable, but so too is Rand Paul’s — one is from terror, and one is from tyranny. The American people deserved to be protected from both. That’s what I want in the next president.
In 1986, Kerik joined the New York City Police Department where he earned the medal for valor. In 1991 he was transferred to the U.S. Justice Department's New York Drug Enforcement Task Force. In August 2000, Kerik served as police commissioner of New York. He led New York City through the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11. After retiring from the NYPD, Kerik accepted a request by the White House to lead Iraq's provisional government's efforts to reconstitute the Iraqi Interior Ministry. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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