5th Amendment

Edward M. Rissman is correct in his observation (letter, June 6) that some "patriots" (his in-cheek description) become vocal when those with whom they do not agree exercise their rights under the Bill of Rights (presumably referring to the McCarthy anti-communist days), but remain silent when those with whom they agree do so (using the Oliver North case as an example).

He is incorrect, however, in his characterization of the Fifth Amendment's freedom from self-incrimination clause ("nor shall (any person) be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself") as a "technicality." The clause lies at the very bedrock of our being. It is a singular principle which distinguishes us from other lands. It is no mere formalism. It is the hallmark of a civilized society. It should not be disparaged.


Van Nuys

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