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The Bill of Rights, 1791-2011

Congress has just passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a military spending bill that, aside from the usual profligacy, puts the official stamp on THE END OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS, the coup de grace to habeas corpus and the Constitution.  And while that might sound melodramatic to some, it is the consensus of everyone from the usual libertarian suspects (from the ACLU to Rep. Ron Paul)… to the human rights crowd (Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch)… to the two four-star Marine generals, Krulak and Hoar, who earlier this week co-authored an op-ed in The New York Times asserting that, not only does this bill represent a “victory” for al Qaeda, but, with its passage, “Due process would be a thing of the past.”

(The NDAA has also elicited objections from the current Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, and our long-serving FBI director, Robert Mueller, in addition to the top intelligence official in the U.S., National Director of Intelligence, James Clapper — albeit on different grounds:  that it will complicate, confuse, and possibly even impede them in their efforts to combat terrorism.)

While civil liberties and the rule of law have been dramatically curtailed in the post-9/11 era, the relevant provisions of this act — which President Obama helped shape — mark a new and stunning blow to FREEDOM in America (increasingly a privilege held only by the 1% of Americans, who are not only freer than the rest of us — to speak their minds, assemble as they please, and pursue happiness — but who are also unambiguously untouchable, whatever crimes they commit, even when the evidence of their culpability is undeniable and their victims number in the millions).

Human Rights Watch executive director, Kenneth Roth:

“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.”

Amnesty International:

“…once the NDAA becomes law a US citizen on US soil can lawfully be killed by the US military if the military believes that citizen to be a terrorist affiliated with Al Qaeda or its allies… The key word in that last sentence was believes.’

Amnesty International then reminds us that more than two-thirds of the nearly 800 individuals the U.S. government has imprisoned at Guantanamo were later released, charged with no crimes whatsoever.  (And so far as the frequently touted claim that as many as “one in seven” GITMO detainees have “returned to the battlefield,” here is just one of several excellent analyses I’ve read debunking that little bit of propaganda.)


“…these provisions could be used by this and any future president to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial — even American citizens and others picked up within the borders of the United States.”

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When I called her office to voice precisely these concerns, Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s staff assured me that her amendment to the NDAA meant that Americans would be exempted from this patently unconstitutional provision — but I have since learned that this claim is FALSE.  Sen. Feinstein’s amendment only means that military detention of Americans is not compulsory, as the original language required.  (Feinstein was merely acting to address President Obama’s concern that such a condition would encroach on the prerogatives of the executive branch.) 

In other words, the bill does, in fact, make it legal for American citizens to be detained indefinitely — or killed outright — by the U.S. military, even on U.S. soil (obliterating the Posse Comitatus Act, which is nearly as old as the Constitution and which prohibits the military from being deployed against the citizenry… or used to, anyway). 

Thanks to Sen. Feinstein’s heroic defense of the Constitution (not!) it is now permissible for the Commander in Chief to decide that the military should kidnap you and throw you in a dungeon for the rest of your life… or send a drone to fire a poison dart into your throat and murder you — all without a shred of due process, including any kind of judicial review — probably just because you’ve become a thorn in side of the powers that be… or because, like Anwar al-Awlaki, you’ve become a political liability (scrutinize these essays advocating, in May 2011, that the government murder this American; they’re filled with admissions that he had NO ROLE in any terrorist organization, and that the threat he posed was in his potential to “inspire”).  Maybe you once wrote something violent on your blog or made a donation to a charity that possibly had some murky connection (or not) to some organization or political party on the official enemies list — one that is not unofficially supported by our government, that is, such as the M.E.K. (a State Department designated terrorist outfit that is nonetheless openly supported by elite Americans, from former DHS Secretary Tom Ridge to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani to screaming Howard Dean, all on the terrorists’ payroll — not that they have anything to fear from our double standard- riddled, legally and morally incoherent government; their class of Americans can advocate for terrorists, pal around with the mafia, whatever they please).

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I’m going to leave the last word to Representative Ron Paul (my last, somewhat realistic, hope for a 2012 presidential candidate who has some actual loyalty to the nation and our Constitution).

Here’s Ron Paul speaking out this week on the NDAA (if you follow the link, begin at the 9 minute, 42 second mark):

“This, to me, is an extremely wrong way to go.  This is a giant step.  This should be the biggest news going right now, literally legalizing martial law… and yet in our debate, it didn’t come up at all.  

“…the arrogance of them trying to push through on a voice vote that if you go through a trial and are found innocent, the government wants the right to put you in prison for life anyway!” (This provision, at least, was defeated in the Senate.)

“…It’s up to so many of us, now, to wake the people up, because they don’t probably realize the significance of this, but this is BIG… This step, where they can literally arrest American people, American citizens, and put ‘em away without a trial, and you heard Lindsey Graham say, ‘well, if they ask for a lawyer, tell them, No lawyer for you!’ — I mean, THAT is arrogant and bold and dangerous… Let’s hope and pray that we can get that kind of stuff reversed.”

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