Opinion: Giving up our civil liberties and having a civil discourse

Opinion: Giving up our civil liberties and having a civil discourse

By Senator Steve Waugh

For MarylandReporter.com


President Obama walks through the Rose Garden. Official White House photo by Peter Souza.

When we saw what happened in Orlando, some wept, some were outraged, some offered leadership. I expected to see our president pull this nation together against a common enemy, but he chose a different path. Let’s try to agree on some things before we throw away our civil liberties in the absence of leadership.

Three days after this attack, the New York Times wasn’t sure why the terrorist acted, “…the precise motivation for the rampage remains unclear….” but they were willing to bet it was “…driven too often by Republican politicians who see prejudice as something to exploit, not extinguish.” The Times is more interested in blaming the GOP than ISIS. This kind of manipulation is beyond the pale.

They declared it a “hate crime,” perhaps a convenient deflection from terrorism. The difference is the object of the act: if you hope to benefit you are a criminal; if you hope to instill fear, you are a terrorist. The “why” of it isn’t just important, it is everything.

No doubt about his motivation

The terrorist left no doubt about his motivation. He posted it on Facebook, Twitter, texts and phone calls to 911 and even gave a TV interview during the attack. U.S. Attorney General Lynch said that included “…this individual’s pledges of allegiance to terrorist groups…” Clearly all this information was available immediately, so the President did not give us the full truth the next day when he said, “We’ve reached no definitive judgment on the precise motivations of the killer.”

This man was not a criminal. He was an enemy combatant. Defined in law and by judges, an enemy combatant “…includes any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy armed forces.” When a man shoots people while declaring his dying allegiance to the ISIS caliphate, he is an enemy combatant – even if he was a U.S. citizen.

There are seven ways to voluntarily relinquish citizenship, delineated in 8 U.S. Code § 1481. He did four. There is no mistaking this man no longer saw himself as an American – he joined the war against us.

We often are blinded by our own civility. It is hard to comprehend that such evil exists: “We spilled rivers of our blood to water the seeds of the khil?fah, laid its foundation with our skulls, and built its tower over our corpses.” The tool is irrelevant – denied one weapon this kind of evil will find another, like a knife in France or nails in pressure cookers like Boston.

Our Constitution enshrines the rights we are endowed with by our Creator.  Today, people suggest we should allow liberties to be taken from us by the government, which we can petition for their return after due consideration. However, that means we forfeit those civil liberties without due process, the burden for their return is on the citizen, with uncertain delay from the government.

The Terror Watchlist is referred to as if it is some specific database of suspected terrorists. If they were suspected terrorists they would be under investigation by the FBI – not on a ‘watch’ list. Because these lists are classified, the State of Maryland cannot know how people get on the list, who is on the list, nor can citizens know how to get off it. It’s important to realize that the Orlando terrorist was not on any list, or under investigation. The law being proposed would have not affected him – the very definition of feckless.

What rights we will give up

What other rights would we consider giving up to the government, to see if they returned? Your right to vote? To trial? To free assembly?

Who are we empowering with this extraordinary breech of our rights? This president, or the next? I am shocked to see my Democratic colleagues so enthusiastic to potentially trust a President Trump with their civil rights.

The President seemed more inclined to call his critics ‘yapping partisans without a strategy’ than to bring us together against this self-declared enemy. For clarity, the number of sorties we had flown against ISIS in the 644 days since he launched the fight against them equates to 20 per day: that could be handily flown by a single squadron during my service. As a benchmark, 644 days after Pearl Harbor we accepted the surrender of Italy. Talking about gun control distracts from the central issue.

I will oppose any attempt to rob us of our civil liberties, with every ounce of my being. I pray that my Democratic colleagues will be as respectful of your rights, and will set a higher standard for the debate than the New York Times.

Republican Steve Waugh represents St. Mary’s and Calvert counties in the Maryland Senate. A career Marine aviator, he served as Chief of Combat Operations for CENTCOM (Central Command) Combined Air Forces.

About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. ksteve

    In his partisan attempt at diversion from a real domestic problem, Senator Waugh writes as if our civil liberties were or should be unlimited. Well, I’m pretty much of a libertarian too, but it seems obvious to me that there are already some limitations on our personal liberties and I do believe it’s just a matter of where we should draw the line on those limitations. I’m against government intrusion into our private personal lives and believe we who are adults should have an unlimited right to relate to each other as we choose of our own joint volition. But, outside one’s private space, there are all kinds of laws that serve the common good that we must obey or pay a penalty for violating. There are, for example, traffic laws and consumer protection laws that make sense to me anyway. And we don’t all have the right to possess a pet rattlesnake.
    I really don’t care what motivated the coward who killed 49 people in Orlando. Whether he was motivated by the medieval ISIS mentality or some personal problem or both, I don’t care. My concern is that he was able to do his killing thing so easily. And he was able to do it so easily because it was legal for him to procure an instrument of war that was created to kill as many of the enemy as possible as quickly as possible.
    Despite the arguments of the gun industry and some gun lovers, the vague language of the 2nd Amendment is always subject to judicial interpretation and, I would argue, does not confer an absolute right to whatever weaponry to anyone. We already have laws against the personal possession of nuclear weapons, so it ought to be simply a matter of what makes sense as to where to draw the line on gun regulation for the sake of the public safety.
    Now we’ve seen the Republican-controlled US Senate defeat attempts to discuss a couple of very mild people protection bills re guns and the Republican-controlled US House refuse to even consider such bills. Banning the sale or possession of the weapon of war used by the Orlando coward isn’t even up for discussion. Yes, “good guys” as well as bad ones might be on some no-fly lists and thus be unable to buy some gun. It seems to me a small price to pay if it would prevent the bad guys from legally purchasing their instruments of death and criminality. And why shouldn’t there be a real screening process before anyone could purchase something as dangerous as a gun of whatever kind? If it takes a few days to go through the process, big deal. Are the lives of people less important than the right to immediate satisfaction by gun lovers? To some GOPers, apparently not.

  2. Dale

    The real agenda behind the “gun control” debate is to disarm the citizens so that they can be turned into slaves…

    History is replete with such examples and the Founding Fathers knew their history well…

    Take away the 2nd. Amendment and you won’t have any of the others, nor the Articles, nor our republic…

  3. Cackalaquiano

    This deranged terrorist was clearly motivated by hatred of gays, but you refused to even acknowlege that by writing the word “gay” or the letters “LGBT.” His hatred is stoked by the environment fostered by Republicans in this country that do nothing but denigrate and demean gay people and work night and day to deny the LGBT community of their civil liberties.
    “I will oppose any attempt to rob us of our civil liberties…” unless you’re gay.

    • Dale

      The shooter was motivated by Islam and his struggle with homosexuality…
      Not Republicans, conservatives, or Christians…

      Quit pushing the LHBTQ agenda…

      • Cackalaquiano

        Conservative Evangelical Christians do far more than Islam in this country to advance an environment hostile to the existence of the LGBT community, and the political success of their discriminatory efforts is through the Republican Party.
        And frankly, there is no gay agenda except the desire to be left alone and given an equal place in society.

        • Dale

          Name me one example of Christian Conservatives tossing homosexuals from the roofs if 10 story buildings… And encourage the spectators to “finish the job” if the victim survives by stoning him… (ISIS)
          Or hanging them from cranes in the public square…(Iran)
          Or using “honey boys” to bait homosexuals ? (ISIS)

          You can’t because these all were brought to the world by Islam… Not Christianity !

          You don’t want the same civil rights, you want “preferential or superior rights” for the LHBTQ community !

  4. Chris Crowley

    Steve, you are right on the money. These are our rights. We should not abridge them because of a terrorist, we should embrace them. There is currently no cohesive or coherent strategy for defeating Islamic terror. From what I see there has only been appeasement. Appeasement clearly doe not work. We will be getting more of the same with Mrs. Clinton who should be held accountable. The only thing keeping her out of an orange jumpsuit is the POTUS.

  5. joe

    Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Loretta Lynch are fascists, who want their vision of the federal government, without Congress, to control every aspect of US citizen’s lives!

  6. Sandvk

    “No doubt about his motivation.” No doubt about yours, Steve.

  7. charlie hayward

    Its folly to believe homeland security vulnerabilities can be addressed with piecemeal gun restrictions which terrorists will ignore, exploit and circumvent. Our enemy isn’t stupid.

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