Tag: NDAA

Feb 14

NDAA: Killing the Democratic State

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and Truthdig columnist, Chis Hedges, along with six other journalists and activists filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration  over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) alleging that it violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Last Wednesday they were back in Federal Court in Manhattan for a hearing before three judges:

Attorney Bruce Afran, addressing press and gathered activists in an icy downtown Manhattan plaza Wednesday, said the three-judge panel today challenged the government to prove that the NDAA provision is nothing more than an “affirmation” of the laws regarding indefinite detention already established by Authorization for Use of Military Force. According to the DoJ, the NDAA provision is nothing new, but simply a codification of AUMF. The plaintiffs and their supporters vehemently disagree, as did Judge Forrest last year. Afran stressed again Sunday that 1021(b)(2) “broadens the power of the military” when it comes to the capture and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens and as such “breaches the constitutional barrier between civilians and the military” and constitutes a significant extension of the military state beyond the powers given by AUMF.

Mr. Hedges explains the consequences for the nation and the democratic state should they lose this case:

If we lose in Hedges v. Obama – and it seems certain that no matter the outcome of the appeal this case will reach the Supreme Court – electoral politics and our rights as citizens will be as empty as those of Nero’s Rome. If we lose, the power of the military to detain citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military prisons will become a terrifying reality. Democrat or Republican. Occupy activist or libertarian. Socialist or tea party stalwart. It does not matter. This is not a partisan fight. Once the state seizes this unchecked power, it will inevitably create a secret, lawless world of indiscriminate violence, terror and gulags. I lived under several military dictatorships during the two decades I was a foreign correspondent. I know the beast. [..]

Five thousand years of human civilization has left behind innumerable ruins to remind us that the grand structures and complex societies we build, and foolishly venerate as immortal, crumble into dust. It is the descent that matters now. If the corporate state is handed the tools, as under Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA, to use deadly force and military power to criminalize dissent, then our decline will be one of repression, blood and suffering. No one, not least our corporate overlords, believes that our material conditions will improve with the impending collapse of globalization, the steady deterioration of the global economy, the decline of natural resources and the looming catastrophes of climate change.

But the global corporatists-who have created a new species of totalitarianism-demand, during our decay, total power to extract the last vestiges of profit from a degraded ecosystem and disempowered citizenry. The looming dystopia is visible in the skies of blighted postindustrial cities such as Flint, Mich., where drones circle like mechanical vultures. And in an era where the executive branch can draw up secret kill lists that include U.S. citizens, it would be naive to believe these domestic drones will remain unarmed. [..]

After the hearing, Mr Hedges, along with three of his co-plaintiffs, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg; Revolution Truth Executive Director Tangerine Bolen; journalist and U.S Day of Rage founder Alexa O’Brien; and Demand Progress Executive Director David Segal, and their attorneys, Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran, sat down to discuss the state of the lawsuit. The discussion was moderated by Natasha Lennard of Salon and Matt Sledge of The Huffington Post.

In a second panel to “discuss the broader context of the case,” Mr. Hedges, Mr. Ellsberg and Ms. Bolen were joined by film maker and activist Michael Moore, NSA whistle-blower Thomas Drake and Jesselyn Radack, an attorney for CIA whistle-blower John Kiriakou and a director of the Government Accountability Project.

Feb 09

NDAA: “Systematic Assault on Constitution”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In May of 2011, Pulitzer prize winning author, Chris Hedges and several other prominent activists and politicians filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration  over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) alleging that it violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Hedges asserted that section 1021 (pdf) of the bill, which authorized indefinite military detention for “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,” left him, as a working journalist, vulnerable to indefinite detention because neither Congress nor the president defined the terms “substantial support,” “associated forces” or “directly supported.” [Emphasis added.]

In a landmark ruling last September, Judge Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York struck down the indefinite detention provision, saying it likely violates the First and Fifth Amendments of U.S. citizens. The Obama administration appealed. The arguments for that appeal will be heard today, Wednesday, February 6.

One of the seven plaintiffs, Pentagon Papers whistleblower, Daniel Ellsberg joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! to discuss the case.

Nov 30

A Step in the Right Direction: Ending Indefinite Detention for US Citizens

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Shortly after President Barack Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act on December 21, 2011 a group of journalists and activist joined Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges in a lawsuit against the Obama administration asserting that the law violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. In September U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest had blocked the disputed statute from the National Defense Authorization Act, essentially declaring it unconstitutional. That ruling was overturned in October by a three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It is worth noting that all of those judges were appointed by Barack Obama.

But who would have thought that Hedges and company would have an ally  in Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) who along with several other senators from both sides of the aisle, filed an amendment to the current military spending bill that would bar detentions of citizens and green card-holders:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who helped write that amendment, declared Wednesday that it is not good enough, and recalled seeing Japanese Americans jailed in horse stalls at a racetrack when she was a girl.

“I believe that the time has come now to end this legal ambiguity, and state clearly, once and for all, that the AUMF or other authorities do not authorize such indefinite detention of Americans apprehended in the U.S.,” Feinstein said.

“The federal government experimented with indefinite detention of U.S. citizens during World War II, a mistake we now recognize as a betrayal of our core values,” she said. “Let’s not repeat it.” [..]

Paul, who adheres to many libertarian positions, noted that the federal government’s “fusion centers” — which are supposed to facilitate the flow of anti-terrorism information — already make recommendations that many people would find objectionable, and if carried to their logical conclusions, could provide basis for jailing just about anyone.

Paul pointed to a report from a center in Missouri: “From this fusion center comes a document that says beware of people who have bumper stickers supporting third party candidates,” Paul said. “Beware of people who believe in stricter immigration laws. Beware of people who support the right to life. They might be terrorists.

“This is an official document,” paul added. “Do we want to give up the right to trial by jury when we’re being told that somebody who keeps food in their basement might be a terrorist?”

The problem that many opponents of the indefinite detention provisions see with it is that it is especially vague, saying only that the military can grab anyone who provides “substantial support” to Al Qaeda or “associated forces.” Those terms are not defined by the law, which is being challenged in the federal courts.

Although President Obama signed the bill he had promised that he would never use it who is to say that he won’t change his mind or another president will use it to silence dissent. Considering the number of promises this president has already broken and his close friendship with Cass Sunstein, who would love nothing more that to criminalize decent, the senate needs to approve this amendment to protect the our constitutional rights.

Sep 14

Criminal Dissent: Update

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

The “Good Guys” won one.

Back in January of this year Chris Hedges, Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Chris Hedges, became the lead complainant in a law suit against the Obama administration after President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act on December 21, 2011:

Hedges asserted that section 1021 (pdf) of the bill, which authorized indefinite military detention for “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,” left him, as a working journalist, vulnerable to indefinite detention because neither Congress nor the president defined the terms “substantial support,” “associated forces” or “directly supported.” [Emphasis added.]

After several hearings on the whether or not the plaintiffs had standing,on May 16, US District Court Judge for the Southern District of New York Katherine B. Forrest issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the enforcement of 1021. On September 12, Judge Forrest made that injunction permanent

Wednesday’s 112-page opinion turns the temporary injunction of May into a permanent injunction. The United States appealed on August 6.

The permanent injunction prevents the U.S. government from enforcing a portion of Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act’s “Homeland Battlefield” provisions. [..]

“This court does not disagree with the principle that the president has primacy in foreign affairs,” the judge said, but that she was not convinced by government arguments.

“The government has not stated that such conduct – which, by analogy, covers any writing, journalistic and associational activities that involve al Qaeda, the Taliban or whomever is deemed “associated forces” – does not fall within § 1021(b)(2).”

This ruling of course will be appealed. In the meantime, journalists, reporters, humanitarian aid workers are still protected by the Constitution. We owe a hearty “thank you” to Judge Forrest for not abdicating her judicial responsibilities. But most of all the Chris Hedges and the other six members of the “Freedom 7“: Pentagon Papers journalist Daniel Ellsberg; author Noam Chomsky; Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jonsdottir; Occupy London activist Kai Wargalla; activist Alexa O’Brien, who believes she lost her day job because of McCarthyite suggestions her work with Occupy Wall Street/Day of Rage was somehow connected to Islamic radicals; and Jennifer “Tangerine” Bolen is the founder and Executive Director of RevolutionTruth.

Aug 15

Criminal Dissent

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Earlier this year Pulitzer prize winning author, Chris Hedges and several other prominent activists and politicians filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration  over Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) alleging that it violated free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment and due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Obama DOJ argued that the group had no standing to bring the suit since they had been harmed. Federal Judge  Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York saw it differently in her ruling (pdf)on May 16 when she issued a preliminary injunction enjoining enforcement of the highly controversial indefinite provisions of NDAA, Sections 1021 and 1022. The final hearings were held last week on whether the injunction enjoining enforcement of 1021 will be permanent.

From Chris Hedges on Criminalizing Dissent:

[..] Any activist or dissident, whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, can be threatened under this law with indefinite incarceration in military prisons, including our offshore penal colonies. The very name of the law itself-the Homeland Battlefield Bill-suggests the totalitarian credo of endless war waged against enemies within “the homeland” as well as those abroad. [..]

Barack Obama’s administration has appealed Judge Forrest’s temporary injunction and would certainly appeal a permanent injunction. It is a stunning admission by this president that he will do nothing to protect our constitutional rights. The administration’s added failure to restore habeas corpus, its use of the Espionage Act six times to silence government whistle-blowers, its support of the FISA Amendment Act-which permits warrantless wiretapping, monitoring and eavesdropping on U.S. citizens-and its ordering of the assassination of U.S. citizens under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force, or AUMF, is a signal that for all his rhetoric, Obama, like his Republican rivals, is determined to remove every impediment to the unchecked power of the security and surveillance state. [..]

The language of the bill is terrifyingly vague. It defines a “covered person”-one subject to detention-as “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.” The bill, however, does not define the terms “substantially supported,” “directly supported” or “associated forces.” In defiance of more than 200 earlier laws of domestic policing, this act holds that any member of a group deemed by the state to be a terrorist organization, whether it is a Palestinian charity or a Black Bloc anarchist unit, can be seized and held by the military. Mayer stressed this point in the court Wednesday when he cited the sedition convictions of peace activists during World War I who distributed leaflets calling to end the war by halting the manufacturing of munitions. Mayer quoted Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’ dissenting 1919 opinion. We need to “be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe,” the justice wrote. [..]

The Justice Department’s definition of a potential terrorism suspect under the Patriot Act is already extremely broad. It includes anyone with missing fingers, someone who has weatherproof ammunition and guns, and anyone who has hoarded more than seven days of food. [..]

Contrast this crucial debate in a federal court with the empty campaign rhetoric and chatter that saturate the airwaves. The cant of our political theater, the ridiculous obsessions over vice presidential picks or celebrity gossip that dominate the news industry, effectively masks the march toward corporate totalitarianism. The corporate state has convinced the masses, in essence, to clamor for their own enslavement. There is, in reality, no daylight between Mitt Romney and Obama about the inner workings of the corporate state. They each support this section within the NDAA and the widespread extinguishing of civil liberties. They each will continue to funnel hundreds of billions of wasted dollars to defense contractors, intelligence agencies and the military. They each intend to let Wall Street loot the U.S. Treasury with impunity. Neither will lift a finger to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed, those losing their homes to foreclosures or bank repossessions, those filing for bankruptcy because of medical bills or college students burdened by crippling debt. Listen to the anguished cries of partisans on either side of the election divide and you would think this was a battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. You would think voting in the rigged political theater of the corporate state actually makes a difference. The charade of junk politics is there not to offer a choice but to divert the crowd while our corporate masters move relentlessly forward, unimpeded by either party, to turn all dissent into a crime.

Not that there is any solace in the argument of voting for Obama to protect the Supreme Court from more corporatist right wing appointments, when Pres. Obama has his good friend and mentor Cass Sunstein waiting in the wings, salivating to further gut and criminalize dissent.

But thank you, Judge Forrest.

May 20

The NDAA Passes the House with Indefinite Detention Intact

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

 The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House  a vote of 299 – 110. It passed without the bipartisan amendment that was proposed by Reps. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.)  which would have prohibited indefinite detention without due process . It failed by a vote of 243 – 173.  House Republicans piled on the fear factor with accusations that the amendment and its supporters were “soft on terrorist”. Adam Serwer recounts in his article in Mother Jones how Smith and Amash were accused of having “[collaborated on a nefarious plot to undermine national security”:

“Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) accused the lawmakers of wanting to “coddle terrorists,” while Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) warned that under an amendment they’d introduced, “as soon as a member of Al Qaeda sets foot on US soil, they hear you have the right to remain silent.” National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor who has never heard of a same-sex marriage supporting, pro-financial regulation liberal who wasn’t secretly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, wrote that their proposal was the result of “libertarian extremists” teaming up with liberals with an “obsession” with giving “more rights” to “mass murderers.” ”

We now know that there are 231 paranoid delusion Republicans in the House that no longer believe in the rule of law or the Constitution of the United States:

“As Smith pointed out during yesterday’s floor debate, the Fifth Amendment says no “person” shall be deprived of liberty without due process of law. It doesn’t say “citizen,” and the text of the Constitution uses both words enough that it’s clear the framers understood the difference. “Your beef is with James Madison,” Smith told Thornberry on Thursday. So keep in mind, when Republicans like Rooney say that Smith and Amash want to “coddle terrorists,” they’re not necessarily talking about some heavily armed Al Qaeda fighter in Kandahar. They’re potentially talking about you.”

Besides passing without the Smith/Amash amendment, the $642 billion bill breaks a deficit-cutting deal with President Barack Obama and restricts his authority in an election-year challenge to the Democratic commander in chief. The bill also calls for construction of a missile defense site on the East Coast that the military opposes, and bars reductions in the nation’s nuclear arsenal. Against the request of the Chamber of Commerce and business community, strong GOP allies, the Republicans passed an amendment limiting funds for institutions or organizations established by the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea:

“The chamber supports Senate ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty “because it would provide clear legal rights and protections to American businesses to transit, lay undersea cables, and take advantage of the vast natural resources in and under the oceans off the U.S. coasts and around the world,” executive vice president R. Bruce Josten said in a statement. He noted that the Defense Department supports the treaty.

Tea party Republicans and other conservatives have expressed concerns about the treaty impinging on U.S. sovereignty.”

President Obama has threatened to veto this bill, not for the lack of the restriction on indefinite detention but mainly because of restrictions on the implementation of the New START treaty; limits on reductions for the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal; and new restrictions on the transfer of Guantanamo detainees. Moreover, the White House objected to the overall size of the bill, which surpasses President Obama’s request by $3.7 billion and exceeds the Budget Control Act spending caps by $8 billion. I’ll believe that when it happens.

May 19

NDAA Detention Provision Ruled Unconstitutional

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

In New York City, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest ruled that the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is unconstitutional in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. The NDAA was signed into law by President Obama in late December after a veto threat over language that was eventually changed at his request.

In a 68-page ruling blocking this statute, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest agreed that the statute failed to “pass constitutional muster” because its broad language could be used to quash political dissent.

    “There is a strong public interest in protecting rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Forrest wrote. “There is also a strong public interest in ensuring that due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment are protected by ensuring that ordinary citizens are able to understand the scope of conduct that could subject them to indefinite military detention.”

This puts a whole new spin on today’s debate in the House floor Thursday of an amendment to the NDAA proposed by Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), that would undo the detention provisions and bar military detention for any terror suspects captured on U.S. soil. The ruling was made in response to a law suit brought by former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner, Chris Hedges and others who argued that the law would have a “chilling effect” on their work:

Hedges was joined in the suit by linguist, author and dissident Noam Chomsky, Pentagon whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg and other high-profile activists, scholars and politicians.

Hedges argued in his testimony that his work as a journalist would bring him into contact with terrorist organizations that would, given the scope of the law, qualify him for indefinite detention. The plaintiffs argued that the threat of detention alone would be an unconstitutional encroachment on their First Amendment rights to free expression and association, as well as a violation of the Fifth Amendment right to due process.

As Glen Greenwald points out in his Salon article, the court rejected the argument by the government that the NDAA did nothing more than the 2001 AUMF already did and thus did not really expand the Government’s power of indefinite detention:

The court cited three reasons why the NDAA clearly expands the Government’s detention power over the 2001 AUMF (all of which I previously cited when denouncing this bill).

First, “by its terms, the AUMF is tied directly and only to those involved in the events of 9/11,” whereas the NDAA “has a non-specific definition of ‘covered person’ that reaches beyond those involved in the 9/11 attacks by its very terms.”

Second, “the individuals or groups at issue in the AUMF are also more specific than those at issue in § 1021″ of the NDAA; that’s because the AUMF covered those “directly involved in the 9/11 attacks while those in § 1021 [of the NDAA] are specific groups and ‘associated forces’.” Moreover, “the Government has not provided a concrete, cognizable set of organizations or individuals that constitute ‘associated forces,’ lending further indefiniteness to § 1021.”

Third, the AUMF is much more specific about how one is guilty of “supporting” the covered Terrorist groups, while the NDAA is incredibly broad and un-specific in that regard, thus leading the court to believe that even legitimate activities could subject a person to indefinite detention.

The court also decisively rejected the argument that President Obama’s signing statement – expressing limits on how he intends to exercise the NDAA’s detention powers – solves any of these problems. That’s because, said the court, the signing statement “does not state that § 1021 of the NDAA will not be applied to otherwise-protected First Amendment speech nor does it give concrete definitions to the vague terms used in the statute.”

(emphasis mine)

A word of caution, we shouldn’t celebrate victory just yet. This is a preliminary injunction issued by one judge and the government will surely appeal it the Circuit Court.

The debate in the House on the amendment to the NDAA introduced by House Armed Services ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) that would undo the detention provisions and bar military detention for any terror suspects captured on U.S. soil, will go on this afternoon. The amendment has strong bipartisan support in the House. We still need to take action and write our Representatives to vote for this amendment.

Demand Progress: End Indefinite Detention!

Feb 28

Ask Not What Your Country

Ask Not What Your Country can do for you, ask what your country can do TO you.

Live from the Apocalypse Ranch your favorite Knight of the Veils presents pre-Iran war ides of March signs of the times!

Jan 24

Freedom’s Just Another Word

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Where have all our freedoms gone? Have they eroded before our eyes because we failed to use them by demanding that our elected representatives protect the Constitution? Did irrational fear of an unseen enemy with no country, armed with a fanatical hatred scare us into allowing those freedoms to be abrogated? Apparently our current government from the executive to the judicial seem to think that the Constitution is a nice idea but its time has passed. We’re at war with “terror” and “terror” will never surrender. Law Professor Jonathan Turley, in an op-ed written shortly after President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law, enumerated the ten reasons the US is no loner the land of the free:

1. Assassination of U.S. citizens

Last year, President Obama went further than George W. Bush would have dared with the ordered assassination of a US citizen, Anwar al-Awlaqi. Just as the Bush administration justified torture, Pres. Obama justified targeted assassination of an American citizen without due process in a secret memo from administration lawyers. The administration cavalierly calling it “due process in war.” Yet, the US is hypocritical enough to criticize other countries for doing the same.

2. Indefinite detention

Under the NDAA the president can indefinitely detain a citizen that is suspected of terrorism and allow the military to hold them. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying that he would never do that, signing statement have no force of law and are not binding, either for Obama or any future president. Presidents have been known to change their minds, Obama does so on a regular basis.  

3. Arbitrary justice

The president decides who will be tried in the Federal courts or by a military tribunal, a system, as Prof. Turley points out, “that has been ridiculed around the world for lacking basic due process protections.” Yet countries like China and Egypt have rejected tribunals as an alternative to civilian courts.

Those first three reasons totally disregard the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth Amendments

4. Warrantless searches

Under the Patriot Act of 2001, and reinforced by Pres. Obama in 2011, the government can force companies and businesses to turn over citizens records, everything from finances to library records without a warrant and bar the company from telling the targets.

Fourth Amendment? What Fourth Amendment?

5. Secret evidence

The government under the guise of national security says it doesn’t have to show evidence it deems secret for national security thus forcing the dismissal of lawsuits brought against it for illegal detention and torture. This is how the Obama Justice Department has protected the war criminals from the Bush administration not only from civil liability but criminal prosecution for crimes against humanity. As Prof Turley describes, “This allows the government to claim secret legal arguments to support secret proceedings using secret evidence.”

Star Chamber?

6. War Crimes

Since 2009, the President Obama has refused to allow the prosecution of anyone responsible for waterboarding and torture. This in complete disregard of treaty obligations and the Nuremberg principles of international law. The Obama administration went so far as to pressure countries such as Spain to drop criminal investigations of war crimes committed by the Bush administration. Yet the US continues to reserve the right to prosecute war criminals in other countries. ”

“Do as I say not as I do” is the attitude that has fed the hatred of terrorists, as well as, disdain from countries like China when we criticize their human rights violations.

7. Secret court

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is the United States’ “secret court”, the “star chamber“, that operates in total secrecy. Created in 1978, the eleven judges of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FIS) consider and rule on applications by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies to conduct electronic surveillance anywhere within the United States. When FISA came up for renewal under the Bush administration it expanded its secret warrants to include individuals deemed to be aiding or abetting hostile foreign governments or organizations. Then Sen. Barack Obama said that he would filibuster the renewal unless certain portions of the bill were fixed to ensure that it did not violate the Constitution. Needless to say, Sen Obama not only did not filibuster the FISA, he voted for it, promising to “fix it” if he was elected president. That was a lie. In 2011, not only did President Obama not fix it, he expanded it to in include secret searches of individuals who are not part of an identifiable terrorist group.

8.  Immunity from judicial review

The Obama administration has pushed for, and granted, immunity of telecommunications companies that assist in warantless surveillance. Citizens who have had their privacy violated by the government no longer have redress.

9. Continual monitoring of citizens

So far the Obama administration has successfully defended in the courts its view that it has the right to use GPS to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. The case, Jones v. United States, could overturn Katz v. United States which is celebrated as saving privacy in the United States, articulated the principle that “the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places.” That 1967 decision reversed a long erosion of privacy protection and required greater use of warrants by the government.

10. Extraordinary renditions

While the Obama administration has insisted that it no longer transfers persons into the custody of other countries where they could be held and tortured, it is still claiming the right to to order such transfers, including the possible transfer of U.S. citizens.

Prof. Turley goes in to quote those who are justifying these abuses as saying it’s all due to the times we in which we live. But as he so importantly notes in conclusion:

An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.

The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do. James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”

Benjamin Franklin was more direct. In 1787, a Mrs. Powel confronted Franklin after the signing of the Constitution and asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got – a republic or a monarchy?” His response was a bit chilling: “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.”

Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely. [..]

Dishonesty from politicians is nothing new for Americans. The real question is whether we are lying to ourselves when we call this country the land of the free.

What was that “change” that was promised three years ago?

Dec 31

Montanans Move To Recall Congressional Delegation

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Montana residents William Crain, an artist and Stewart Rhodes, an attorney, have launched a petition to recall the state’s congressional delegation, Sen. Max Baucus (D), Sen. Jonathan Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Reberg (R) over their vote for the National Defense Authorization Act that explicitly authorized the indefinite detention of terrorism suspects, including American citizens. Montana is one of nine states that has provisions to recall its elected federal officials. Under the Montana Recall Act all state officials in Montana are subject to recall for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense. The Montana petitions (there is one for each of the three), states the following “reason for recall”:

   1. “The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees all U.S citizens: “a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed…”

   2.  The National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (NDAA 2011) permanently abolishes the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial, “for the duration of hostilities” in the War on Terror, which was defined by President George W. Bush as “task which does not end” to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001.

   3.  Those who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have attempted to grant powers which cannot be granted, which violate both the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

   4.  The Montana Recall Act stipulates that officials including US senators can only be recalled for physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct, or conviction of a felony offense.

   5. Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act reads in substance: “Congress affirms that the authority of the President to detain …A person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda…or associated forces…including any person who has…directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces…The disposition of a person…may include…Detention…without trial until the end of the hostilities…”

   6. “Substantial support” of an “associated force” may imply citizens engaged in innocuous, First Amendment activities.  Direct support of such hostilities in aid of enemy forces may be construed as free speech opposition to U.S. government policies, aid to civilians, or acts of civil disobedience.

   7. Section 1021 reads: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law.”  But “existing law” may be construed to refer to Padilla v. Rumsfeld in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the government’s claim of authority to hold Americans arrested on American soil indefinitely.

   8. Thus Senators Bacus, Tester, and Congressman Rehberg who voted Aye on December 15th, 2011, Bill of Rights Day, for NDAA 2011 have violated his Oath of Office to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution which guarantees all citizens the right to a jury trial “In all criminal prosecutions.”

According to the press release, Mr. Rhodes stated:

These politicians from both parties betrayed our trust, and violated the oath they took to defend the Constitution. It’s not about the left or right, it’s about our Bill of Rights. Without the Bill of Rights, there is no America. It is the Crown Jewel of our Constitution, and the high-water mark of Western Civilization. [..]

Two time Medal of Honor winner Marine General Smedley Butler once said “There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights.” Time to fight.

It’s not clear if the courts will allow states to recall their federal politicians. It hasn’t gotten very far in the past. In 1967, a recall campaign was waged against Sen Frank Church by Ron Rankin, a Republican county commissioner in Kootenai County in northern Idaho. The U.S. District Court for Idaho ruled that the state’s recall laws did not apply to U.S. senators and that such a recall would violate the U.S. Constitution. Since Idaho’s State Attorney General Alan Shephard decided to accept the court’s ruling, writing that “It must be pointed out that a United States senator is not a state officer but a federal officer whose position is created by Article I, Section I of the United States Constitution. There seems to be no provision for canvassing the votes of a recall election of a United States senator.”

However, it can be argued that since there is no provision provided in the Constitution to recall members of congress, that right is preserved for the states under the 10th Amendment which states:  

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Leaving Mr. Rhodes’ affiliation with The Oath Keepers, a group that has been criticized in the past for adopting extremist views and language, and for their supposed ties to white supremacist and militia groups, the petition drive does have some merits. If successful, it could lead to other states passing laws to provide for the recall of elected federal officers who think that the Constitution is quaint. Good luck to them and perhaps good riddance to Baucus, Tester and Reberg.

Dec 23

Yes, We Can: The Case for Indefinite Detention & Rendition

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Twist as the president’s supporters might with the “look over here” tactic, the National Defense Authorization Bill (NDAA) does not change any existing law that Barack Obama has interpreted to mean he has the power to throw your sorry butt in prison anywhere in the world for as long as he chooses. Or he can just declare you a terrorist without providing evidence and have you executed without due process. Ignoring the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) that was recently renewed giving the president the authority to send in the military to fight that ubiquitous enemy “terror”, the Obama loyalists, keep pointing to section 1022 of the NDAA, the section that makes military detention presumptive for non-citizens but doesn’t foreclose military detention of US citizens, while completely ignoring section 1021, the section that affirms the President’s authority to indefinitely detain people generally. As Marcy Wheeler at emptywheel points out while the NDAA does not authorize indefinite detention for American citizens, it does not foreclose the possibility either:

The NDAA doesn’t do anything to exempt Americans from indefinite detention. And the reason it doesn’t-at least according to the unrebutted claims of Carl Levin that I reported on over a month ago-is because the Administration asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to take out language that would have specifically exempted Americans from indefinite detention.

   The initial bill reported by the committee included language expressly precluding “the detention of citizens or lawful resident aliens of the United States on the basis of conduct taking place within the United States, except to the extent permitted by the Constitution of the United States.”  The Administration asked that this language be removed from the bill. [my emphasis]

So the effect is that (as Lawfare describes in detail) the bill remains unclear about whether Americans can be detained indefinitely and so we’re left arguing about what the law is until such time as a plaintiff gets beyond the Executive Branch’s state secrets invocations to actually decide the issue in court.

Nor did the amendment from Sen. Diane Feinstein clarify that point either, in fact, she may have codified it. So the only recourse is for some poor fool to have his civil liberties abrogated and try to fight in court without being allowed access to lawyers or courts. Those are some hurdles. Scott Horton, contributing editor at Harper’s magazine and New York attorney known for his work in human rights law and the law of armed conflict, discussed this with Keith Olbermann:

Constitutional expert and George Washington University law professor, Jonathan Turley, appeared on C-Span with his take on this discussion. He made it very clear that Obama says that he can assassinate American citizens living on U.S. soil:

(starting at 15:50):

President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he’s satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.

Two of his aides just … reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States.

You’ve now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion [..]

I don’t think the the Framers ever anticipated that [the American people would be so apathetic]. They assumed that people would hold their liberties close, and that they wouldn’t relax …

h/t Washington’s Blog

How quickly the president’s defenders forget Anwar al-Awlaki. Marcy points to the contortions of the law that Obama used to justify his assassination and then issued a “secret memorandum” which was conveniently “leaked” to New York Times reporter Charles Savage:

And, as Charlie Savage has reported, the legal justification the Administration invented for killing an American citizen in a premeditated drone strike consists of largely the same legal justification at issue in the NDAA detainee provisions.

           

  • The 2001 AUMF, which purportedly defined who our enemies are (though the NDAA more logically includes AQAP in its scope than the 2001 AUMF)
  •            

  • Hamdi, which held the President could hold an American citizen in military detention under the 2001 AUMF
  •            

  • Ex Parte Quirin, which held that an American citizen who had joined the enemy’s forces could be tried in a military commission
  •            

  • Scott v. Harris (and Tennesee v. Garner), which held that authorities could use deadly force in the course of attempting to detain American citizens if that person posed an imminent threat of injury or death to others
  •    In other words, Obama relied on substantially the same legal argument supporters of the NDAA detainee provisions made to argue that indefinite detention of American citizens was legal, with the addition of Scott v. Harris to turn the use of deadly force into an unfortunate side-effect of attempted detention.

    There is no question that the Obama administration, by signing the NDAA, believes that it has the broad power to indefinitely detain and assassinate American citizens and guarantees that the next president will too.

    The late George Carlin said it several years ago, “this country is circling the drain“.  

    Dec 17

    Senate Will Consider The NDAA Today: Up Dated

    Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

    They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. ~ Benjamin Franklin

    Up Date: The Senate voted for final passage for the NDAA conference report (H.R. 1540). The vote was overwhelming: 86-to-13. It now goes to President Obama for his signature.

    President Obama has not yet signed the NDAA. It is not to late to tell him to veto this bill which will have a devastating effect on civil liberties and give unprecedented powers to the military and the Executive Branch. Send Obama a strong message sign the petition and send a letter:

    President Obama: Veto the National Defense Authorization Act!

    VETO the National Defense Authorization Act

    This House passed the revised National Defense Authorization Act 283 – 136 with 93 Democrats and 43 Republicans voting against the bill. The Senate is scheduled to take up the bill later today. It inevitably pass with an overwhelming majority and be sent to President Obama to sign. Since the White has stated that they are satisfied with the minor changes, Obama will sign the bill which, as Human Rights Watch said in a press release, “a historic tragedy for rights:

    (Washington, DC, December 14, 2011) – US President Barack Obama’s apparent decision to not veto a defense spending bill that codifies indefinite detention without trial into US law and expands the military’s role in holding terrorism suspects does enormous damage to the rule of law both in the US and abroad, Human Rights Watch said today. The Obama administration had threatened to veto the bill, the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), over detainee provisions, but on December 14, 2011, it issued a statement indicating the president would likely sign the legislation.

    “By signing this defense spending bill, President Obama will go down in history as the president who enshrined indefinite detention without trial in US law,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “In the past, Obama has lauded the importance of being on the right side of history, but today he is definitely on the wrong side.”

    The far-reaching detainee provisions would codify indefinite detention without trial into US law for the first time since the McCarthy era when Congress in 1950 overrode the veto of then-President Harry Truman and passed the Internal Security Act. The bill would also bar the transfer of detainees currently held at Guantanamo into the US for any reason, including for trial. In addition, it would extend restrictions, imposed last year, on the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to home or third countries – even those cleared for release by the administration.

    (emphasis mine)

    Glenn Greenwald at Salon wrote in his article this morning that there are “several persistent myths that circulating about this bill and President Obama’s position on it that need to be clarified once and for all:

  • First, while the powers this bill enshrines are indeed radical and dangerous, most of them already exist. That’s because first the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have aggressively argued that the original 2001 AUMF already empowers them to imprison people without charges, use force against even U.S. citizens without due process (Anwar Awlaki), and target not only members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban (as the law states) but also anyone who “substantially supports” those groups and/or “associated forces” (whatever those terms mean). [..]

    With a couple of exceptions, this bill just “clarifies” – and codifies – the powers President Obama has already claimed, seized and exercised. [..]

    This is the reason why civil libertarians have been so harshly critical of this President. It’s the reason civil liberties groups have been saying things like this even when saying them was so unpopular: it’s because Obama has, for three years now, been defending and entrenching exactly the detention powers this law vests, but doing it through radical legal theories, warped interprations (sic) of the 2001 AUMF, continuities with the Bush/Cheney template, and devotion to Endless War and the civil liberties assults (sic) it entails.

  • Second, as I documented at length last week, Obama’s veto threat was never about substantive objections to the detention powers vested by this bill; put another way, he was never objecting to the bill on civil liberties grounds. Obama, as I documented last week and again below, is not an opponent of indefinite detention; he’s a vigorous proponent of it, as evidenced by his contiuous (sic), multi-faceted embrace of that policy.

    Obama’s objections to this bill had nothing to do with civil liberties, due process or the Constitution. It had everything to do with Executive power. The White House’s complaint was that Congress had no business tying the hands of the President when deciding who should go into military detention, who should be denied a trial, which agencies should interrogate suspects (the FBI or the CIA). Such decisions, insisted the White House (pdf), are for the President, not Congress, to make. In other words, his veto threat was not grounded in the premise that indefinite military detention is wrong; it was grounded in the premise that it should be the President who decides who goes into military detention and why, not Congress.

  • Third, the most persistent and propagandistic set of myths about President Obama on detention issues is that he tried to end indefinite detention by closing Guantanamo, but was blocked by Congress from doing so. It is true that Congress blocked the closing of Guantanamo, and again in this bill, Congress is imposing virtually insurmountable restrictions on the transfer of detainees out of that camp, including for detainees who have long ago been cleared for release (restrictions that Obama is now going to sign into law). But – and this is not a hard point to understand – while Obama intended to close Guantanamo, he always planned – long before Congress acted – to preserve Guantanamo’s core injustice: indefinite detention.

    I need to say that again: long before, and fully independent of, anything Congress did, President Obama made clear that he was going to preserve the indefinite detention system at Guantanamo even once he closed the camp. That’s what makes the apologias over Obama and GITMO so misleading: the controversy over Guantanamo was not that about its locale – that it was based in the Carribean (sic) Ocean – so that simply closing it and then  re-locating it to a different venue would address the problem. The controversy over Guantanamo was that it was a prison camp where people were put in cages indefinitely, for decades or life, without being charged with any crime. And that policy is one that President Obama whole-heartedly embraced from the start.

  • All the evidence is that debunks the myth that Obama is concerned about the Constitution are there in Glen’s article.

    Ironically today 220 years ago in 1791, Virginia became the last state to ratify the Bill of Rights. If the Senate passes this horrendous assault on our civil liberties, most of that historic document will be undermined. I don’t believe this that is what our Founding Fathers intended.

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