“A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.” – Thomas Jefferson
The United States has entered a period of unparalleled tyranny for the nation and a shotgun blast of it is hitting us this week. No longer is the State even attempting to hide its trampling of the Constitution and the largest boot print is being left by Senate Bill 1867 (The “National Defense Authorization Act”).
Among the number of hideous provisions, the bill would designate the United States as a “battlefield,” thus granting the President the right to use Commander-in-Chief powers at home. This includes the right to snatch or arrest any American who is a suspect of the government and detain them without charge, lawyer, or trial.
Section 1031 of the bill begins:
“Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons pending disposition under the law of war.”
The “covered persons” are defined as:
“A covered person under this section is any person as follows:
(1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.
(2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces” (emphasis added).
In other words, the President can authorize military detainments of anyone who is merely suspected of being involved with a terrorist organization, and those organizations are not even strictly defined.
Section 1032 is entitled “Requirement for Military Custody” and grants that the “Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force in military custody pending disposition under the law of war.”
Who are the persons described in paragraph (2)? Again, it is anyone who is determined–
“(A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and
(B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.”
Now, the section goes on to state, “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States” or to a lawful resident alien of the United States. Some have claimed that this exempts American citizens and lawful aliens from military detainment, but note that it only exempts them from the requirement of such detainment in military custody. In other words, the military may not be required to detain them, but they are allowed to do so.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the bill’s supporters, goes back and forth about this, at one point claiming that it does not apply to Americans and then taking it back. He claims, in the same speech, that Americans would be given due process under this bill, then says,
“If you are an American citizen and you betray your country, you’re going to be held in military custody and you’re going to be questioned about what you know. You’re not going to be given a lawyer if our national security interests dictate that you not be given a lawyer, and go into the criminal justice system. We’re not fighting a crime, we’re fighting a war.”
In fact, the bill goes on to state (in Section 1032) that the only people really safe from military detainment are those who are already under “ongoing surveillance or intelligence gathering” and would better serve the State by remaining “free,” but under their all-seeing eye. It reads: “Procedures providing that the requirement for military custody under subsection (a) (1) does not require the interruption of ongoing surveillance or intelligence gathering with regard to persons not already in the custody or control of the United States.”
But, what about the Constitution that Senator Graham vowed to uphold? It specifically speaks to just this situation.
“Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court” (Article III, Section 3).
In other words, betraying your country is punishable in the court system according to the Constitution. Even if a citizen engages in warfare against the United States, they are to be given the same due process granted in the Bill of Rights. They can only be convicted before an open court, on the testimony of multiple witnesses or by their own confession. The Constitution offers no distinction between when we’re “not fighting a crime, we’re fighting a war” when it comes to due process.
The Fifth Amendment still says:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.”
This stands in all criminal cases, but this is why the Congress is going to such lengths to make distinctions that the Constitution does not make. They want to differentiate between criminal and military cases, but this is a cheap illusion. Senator Graham argues that war allows for the suspension of due process in the name of “national security,” but the Constitution addresses these exact things in the treason clause quoted above.
One other disturbing aspect of this bill is that, since it defines America as part of the battlefield in the “War on Terror,” those detained would be subject to the same treatment our military dishes out to “enemy combatants.” In other words, American citizens and legal aliens who are detained under the provisions of this bill could be subject to the same tortures, er… enhanced interrogation techniques allowed by the Commander-in-Chief or military commanders.
The “War on Terror” brought us supposed justification for wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, military actions in Africa, Pakistan, Yemen, and more. It is being used to prop up threats against Iran, Syria, and North Korea. The War on Terror brought the PATRIOT Act to all of us, allowing the government to listen to phone conversations, read e-mails, monitor bank records and library records, and even search property without a duly issued warrant or even the awareness of the suspect.
Now, the War on Terror” brings us more tyranny at home. The State seeks to convince Americans that this is for their own safety, and that they are only trying to protect us. But, if the government can monitor our private actions and conversations without a warrant or our knowledge, assassinate us for being suspected of terrorism, and snatch us off the street and detain us in military custody indefinitely, from whom do we need protecting?
UPDATE: As of December 14, 2011, President Obama withdrew his pledge to veto this bill. Of course, his veto was not being offered because he was troubled by the indefinite detention clause, but because he thought the bill did not grant the President enough power to “protect” the American people. He plans to sign this into law.