Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
– Benjamin Franklin
The Defense Authorization Act is the most Draconian, Orwellian, anti-Constitutional piece of legislation since the Patriot Act. Not only has this administration been the first in history to assassinate a U.S. citizen abroad without trial, but the Senate on Thursday passed the Defense Authorization Act that includes provisions to allow for the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without a trial or access to an attorney. Any U.S. citizen suspected of being a ‘terrorist’ could be detained by the military forever.
Citizens would not even have to be tried or convicted of anything, just suspected. This is giving up one of the most important foundations of our legal system – due process. Before you write off these concerns and think it would only apply to “the bad guys”, consider that some of the things that might qualify you as a suspected terrorist include having more than 7 days of food in your house, having multiple guns, weatherproof ammunition or missing fingers on your hand. I’m sure they could come up with any other justification needed at their discretion and simply make you disappear if they don’t like you.
The problem with this bill (and almost all bills that mention the word “terror”, “terrorist”, “terrorism”, or “war on terror”, like the misnamed Patriot Act) is that terrorism is a tactic, not a person or group of people. By a strict definition of “terrorism”, some tactics employed by the US army could classify them as a “terrorist organization”, but that’s not the point. Since “Terrorism” is a tactic, in order to call someone a “terrorist”, you need to give that person a fair trial and prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person in question did in fact use terrorist tactics. Bills like this give the US Government the ability to skip that step and classify someone as a “terrorist” arbitrarily without a fair trial, which is no different than giving the Executive branch the power to call someone a murderer and execute them on the spot. Once you start going down that path, the potential for abuse is catastrophic! Section 1031 needs to be removed. (from Opencongress.org)
The legislation passed by a wide 93 to 7 margin. It was opposed by Senators Tom Coburn (R-Ok.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mike Lee (R-Ut.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).
Fortunately, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), an opponent of the original language, amended the bill to clearly state that the intention of the bill was not to usurp existing U.S. law in regards to American citizens and legal aliens. It is not clear yet if this language will go far enough to protect U.S. citizens from this unconstitutional power grab.
Senator Feinstein likens the measure to former president Franklin Roosevelt’s ordering the incarceration of US citizens of Japanese descent during World War II.
“We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge, prosecution, and conviction. This constant push that everything has to be militarized – I don’t think that creates a good country,” Feinstein argued. Because we have values. And due process of law is one of those values. And so I object, I object to holding American citizens without trial. I do not believe that makes us more safe.”
In an effort to stop the bill, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is floating the Udall Amendment, which according to the ACLU is:
“A way for the Senate to say no to indefinite detention without charge or trial anywhere in the world where any president decides to use the military. Instead of simply going along with a bill that was drafted in secret and is being jammed through the Senate, the Udall Amendment deletes the provisions and sets up an orderly review of detention power. It tries to take the politics out and put American values back in.”
In addition to this Amendment, I think we need a “Defend the Constitution Act” which would call for the immediate removal from office any elected official that introduces legislation that is clearly contradictory to the Constitution. The bill’s sponsors, John McCain and Carl Levin, should face trial for treason.
McCain’s office number: (202) 224-2235
Carl Levin’s office (202) 224-6221
Lindsey Graham’s office (202) 224-5972
Call their staff and tell them as an American citizen you are outraged and that you DO NOT support Section 1031 of the defense appropriation bill and that they should be ashamed of themselves for supporting this un-constitutional and un-american legislation. Finally, let them know that you believe they should resign because they have shown contempt for the Constitution.
The President is sending conflicting messages about his stance on the bill. He has appropriately threatened to veto the it, stating that:
Applying this military custody requirement to individuals inside the United States, as some Members of Congress have suggested is their intention, would raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.
Yet, Obama made a speech today that appeared to be in support of indefinite preventative detention. Hypocritically, he did this within a speech where he critiqued the Bush administration for establishing an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was not within the rule of law. Even left-leaning Rachel Maddow on MSNBC came out against the bill. She aptly pointed out how this law is similar to the creepy scenarios in the movie “Minority Report” where Tom Cruise’s character arrests people for crimes they have yet to commit.
With such a huge majority on Congress approving this act and Obama seemingly promoting it, things are not looking good. You can urge Obama to veto this bill by signing this petition.
So much for ‘innocent until proven guilty’ or the 6th amendment’s guarantee of a right to trial. What Americans are now facing is quite literally the end of the line. We will either uphold the freedoms baked into our Constitutional Republic, or we will scrap the entire project in the name of security as we wage, endlessly, this futile, costly, and ultimately self-defeating War on Terror. This Senate bill would let the government lock up any citizen it swears is a terrorist, without the burden of proving its case to an independent judge, and for the lifespan of an amorphous war that conceivably will never end. And because the Senate is using the bill that authorizes funding for the military as its vehicle for this dramatic constitutional claim, it’s pretty likely to pass.
While the $662 billion bill shrinks Pentagon spending by $43 billion from last year, the United States is still spending more than all other nations combined for military purposes. And this coming at a time when the debt has topped $15 Trillion, the debt-to-GDP ratio has topped 100% and over 46 million Americans are on food stamps.
What’s truly at stake is far more dangerous than Obamacare or any hike in marginal tax rates. We are talking about the stripping away of our most basic freedoms upon which this country was founded. We are talking about giving the government the power to call me a terrorist for writing this blog post and then lock me up and throw away the key. If this bill passes, the U.S. will become a defacto military police state.
It all seems like some strange bad dream that just keeps getting worse. In addition to pushing for the indefinite detention of citizens without trial, the government and Hollywood studios are now attempting to censor the Internet through the “Protect IP Act,” otherwise called The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).
The Internet is the last true power that the people have, since the elections are rigged and mainstream media is controlled by a handful or large corporations. We need to ensure that the Internet is kept free from government censorship and can not be used as a political tool to quiet dissent. I am not sure how much it will help, but it only takes a minute to sign the petition, contact your representative and let your voice be heard.
We are witnessing the dismantling of the U.S. Constitution and rule of law. The very foundation of what this nation was built upon is being threatened and we all better wake up and do something about it while we still can. You can have your disagreements with some of the demands from the Occupy Wall Street movement, but it is time to take the streets and defend what is left of this once great nation. Otherwise, we will slowly watch Orwell’s nightmare unfold before our very eyes, except it will not be a fictional story this time around.