Nel's New Day

November 30, 2011

Senate Removes Constitutional Rights

They actually did it. I didn’t believe they would. And I never thought that I would agree with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). But I’m against it the way he is.

Monday, I wrote about the Senate voting on a bill that would allow the president to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens in prison with no trial. Yesterday they passed that bill. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) wanted an amendment for the bill that would exempt citizens from the “imprison suspected ‘terrorists’ indefinitely with no trial” bill. That amendment failed 60 to 38 after Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) voted against the amendment and then voted for it.

Udall’s amendment called for U.S. military and intelligence officials to study the plan and offer their own blueprint for how to interrogate and detain alleged extremists. It appears that Senators think that they are more qualified to question and detail “terrorists” than the military and intelligence officials.

The U.S. Constitution protects U.S. citizens from being indefinitely imprisoned. Amendment 5 states, “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Amendment 6 states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” If the House of Representatives, overwhelmed by conservatives, passes it and the President signs it, although he’s promised to veto the bill, then citizens have lost more of their constitutional rights.

Fifteen Democrats and one Independent joined all the Republicans except Paul  and Mark Kirk (R-IL) to defeat the amendment that would exempt citizens from indefinite jail time without trial. “It’s not enough just to be alleged to be a terrorist,” Paul said. “That’s part of what due process is–deciding, are you a terrorist? I think it’s important that we not allow U.S. citizens to be taken.” Paul also stated that the new provisions would not have prevented the failures that led to the 9/11 attacks.

Democrats who opposed citizens’ indefinite time in jail without trial compared this bill to the detention of Americans in internment camps during World War II. “Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). She has another amendment, not yet receiving a vote, to correct this problem. “We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge.”

“The enemy is all over the world. Here at home. And when people take up arms against the United State sand [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person as to what they know about enemy activity?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. “They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer,” Graham said.

That’s what they said about Brandon Mayfield, a U.S. citizen in Portland (OR) accused of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The FBI secretly broke into his house without probable cause and then held him for two weeks. Eventually an FBI internal review admitted serious errors in their investigation. If this bill is allowed to become law, U.S. citizens like Mayfield could spend their lives in prison.

“It is likely that implementing such procedures would inject significant confusion into counterterrorism operations,” the White House argued in a Nov. 17 statement. Both FBI Director Robert Mueller and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sent letters to congressional leaders opposing the bill.

The bill handily passed because it was part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would authorize defense spending on military personnel, weapons, and war. The “send U.S. citizens to prison indefinitely without charges” bill can still be removed when the Senate bill is merged with a similar House bill allocating $690 billion for the Pentagon.

The 15 senators who voted for the “take constitutional rights from U.S. citizens bill” are Bob Casey (PA), Kent Conrad (ND), Kay Hagan (NC), Daniel Inouye (HI), Herb Kohl (WI), Mary Landrieu (LA), Carl Levin (MI), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR), Jack Reed (RI), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (CN) also voted in favor of removing constitutional rights.

Tea Partiers think that the bill does not apply to U.S. citizens. They are wrong. It would (1) explicitly authorize the federal government to indefinitely imprison without charge or trial American citizens and others picked up inside and outside the United States; (2) mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control, including civilians picked up within the United States itself; and (3) transfer to the Department of Defense core prosecutorial, investigative, law enforcement, penal, and custodial authority, and responsibility now held by the Department of Justice.

If this bill passes, U.S. citizens have lost the right of habeas corpus from Article 1, Second 9 of the U.S. Constitution that states U.S. citizens cannot be held without their will without just cause. People jailed with no charges can demand these, and the courts must issue a writ of habeas corpus to force those in charge to answer why people are being held. With no good or compelling reason for holding them, these people must be set free. This is the sole liberty considered important enough to be in the original text of the U.S. Constitution.

According to legal experts, the wording of the new National Defense Authorization Act effectively repeals the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385), which limits the use of federal military personnel to enforce laws within the United States.  The Act allows for the imposition of martial law only where specifically authorized by the United States Constitution (invasion, insurrection, etc.) or Act of Congress.  Under the provisions of the unamended NDAA, the president will have the power to impose martial law, and thereby suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus, on his own authority.

More than ten years 19 men, 15 of them from Saudi Arabia, attacked the World Trade Center. Many people are still believe that this was an “act of war” on the United States. No country declared war on the U.S., but a conservative government used this tragedy to destroy millions of lives and the culture of other countries through violent acts that brought down revenge on our country.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

1 Comment »

  1. I don’t understand why there’s no hullabaloo about this. Some wacko president could declare all gay people or every American citizen with the last name of Jones to be threats. Wrong, wrong, wrong.


    Comment by Lynchly — November 30, 2011 @ 8:58 PM | Reply

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