Posts Tagged ‘Indefinite detention’

The Senate votes to outlaw indefinite detention

December 1, 2012

On Friday, the Senate voted 67 to 29 for an amendment introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein to the defense authorization bill that read as follows.

Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein

An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States unless an Act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention

I’m encouraged that the Senate is pushing back against unchecked Presidential power, although this is a basic Constitutional principle that ought to be taken for granted.   I’m glad to see Democrats willing to stand up to a Democratic President on a question of basic principle.

I’m not sure what the House of Representatives will do.   Most of the opponents of the amendment in the Senate were Republicans, and the House has a Republican majority

Click on The Senate Voted to Outlaw Indefinite Detention…Or Did It? for a report on the vote by Adam Serwer of Mother Jones.@

[Added 12/3/12]  The problem with the amendment is that it makes a Constitutional right subject to an act of Congress.  Still, it is a step in the right direction.

[Added 12/22/12]  I was too hopeful. The bill died in the House.

[Added 1/9/13]  Congress added a rider to the defense appropriations bill restricting the authority of the President to release prisoners or put them on trial.

Maybe we need a new Magna Carta

September 4, 2012

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.

Congress is signing away our liberties

December 12, 2011

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 judgment 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

Source:  Magna Carta – Wikipedia.

In 1215, the barons of England forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, in which he conceded that he was subject to the law, and that his free subjects were all entitled to the protection of the law.  That has been the foundation of basic liberty in the English-speaking world ever since.  The right to habeas corpus, freedom from ex post facto laws, and freedom of bills of attainder were written into the United States Constitution even before there was a Bill of Rights.  They mean that no citizen may be imprisoned or punished unless he or she violates an existing law.  You are free to displease the ruler so long as you stay within the law.

Now Congress is on the verge of signing away these fundamental rights.   Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have voted for versions of a National Defense Authorization Bill which would give President Obama the right to imprison people indefinitely if he designates them as terrorists.  The difference between the Senate and House bills is that the bad Senate bill gives him authority to suspend the Constitution and the worse House bill makes this mandatory.

I can’t understand why liberal Democrats think President Obama is more to be trusted with this power than President George W. Bush.

I am even more unable to understand why conservative Republicans, who claim to see the threat of dictatorship behind President Obama’s health insurance and government jobs programs, want to give him the power of a dictator.

President Obama has already claimed the power to sign death warrants of people he designates as terrorists, and to commit acts of war against countries he designates as terrorist—the definition of terrorism being whatever he says it is.


Detention by executive decree

December 23, 2010

The White House is preparing an Executive Order on indefinite detention that will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials.

The draft order, a version of which was first considered nearly 18 months ago, is expected to be signed by President Obama early in the New Year. The order allows for the possibility that detainees from countries like Yemen might be released if circumstances there change.

But the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.

via ProPublica.