Maybe we need a new Magna Carta

NO Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor [condemn him,] but by lawful judgement of his Peers, or by the Law of the Land.  We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either Justice or Right.

=From the Magna Carta (aka the Great Charter of Liberties of England) of 1215

The Obama administration is appealing a federal judge’s injunction issued last May against enforcement of the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, the President has the right to order the arrest and imprisonment of anyone he deems to have given “substantial support” to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or “associated forces.”

Click to enlarge.

The Constitutional problem with the law is that it does not define “substantial support” or “associated forces” and does not contain any provision requiring the government to show the support was given knowingly or recklessly.  These broad but vague powers could be used by a President against any group that opposed the government’s policies.

In the case, the government’s lawyers refused to define any limitations on the government’s power, or even to state that it did not apply to Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Wolf and Daniel Ellsberg, who brought the lawsuit questioning the Constitutionality of the law.  The government’s lawyers probably could have blocked the lawsuit by so stating, because it would have deprived the plaintiffs of standing to sue.  The fact that they did not so state means that the Obama administration does not want any limitation on the government’s power.

One basic principle of the rule of law, going back to Magna Carta, is that so long as you obey the written law, you are safe from prosecution, and that you cannot be punished for a crime unless the government states what law you are accused of violating.  If you think President Obama can be trusted to use this power responsibly, what about President Romney?  Or vice versa?

The leadership of both the Democratic and Republican parties, and much of the American public, have come to accept Big Brother government as normal.  The defense of basic liberty comes from radicals, libertarians and so-called extremists.

I do not think that President Obama, or any other major American political figure, is equivalent to Hitler, but I do think that if a Hitler came to power in the United States, he would not need any new powers over and above those currently in place.  I do not think I am living under totalitarian rule, but the experience of living in the United States the past 10 years enables me to better understand how decent, well-meaning Germans could come to accept the rule of a Hitler as normal.

Click on NDAA Suit Argued in Federal Court for a report from the Village Voice.

Click on A Restoration of Law and Hope? for analysis by the Tenth Amendment Center.

Hat tip to The Grey Enigma.

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2 Responses to “Maybe we need a new Magna Carta”

  1. Micaela Ward Says:

    Thank you for an excellent piece, Phil. In the current mainstream media blackout on this case, it is indeed encouraging to see good writers and strong thinkers blogging about it. There have been many allusions to the Magna Carta in what has been written in alternative and online media, but no one has spelled it out in plain English until now. One minor correction: Naomi Wolf is not a plaintiff in the Hedges v Obama lawsuit, although she vigorously supports it. The plaintiffs, dubbed the Freedom 7, are Chris Hedges, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Birgitta Jonsdottir, Icelandic parliamentarian, Tangerine Bolen, Executive Director of RevolutionTruth, Kai Wargalla of Occupy London and Alexa O’Brien of US Day of Rage. We expect Judge Forrest’s final ruling at any time, in which we hope she will make permanent the temporary injunction against Section 1021 of the 2012 NDAA.

    Micaela Ward
    Revolution Truth


  2. Harold Gielow Says:

    The authorities assumed by the executive in the NDAA detention paragraphs are unconscionable usurpations of power over citizens and, on their face, unconstitutional. That more citizens are not incenced is beyond me. I fear for our country, yet I am at a loss as to how to get more people involved in combatting this destruction of our constitution. I implore all concerned citizens to flood their representatives email and mail boxes with messages of unequivocal dissent in ragards this travesty. LtCol Harold Gielow, USMC (ret).


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