Sunday, January 15, 2012

Americans Ignored NDAA Precedents At Their Peril

Contributed by Sherwood Ross

“I believe,” warned James Madison in a speech to the Virginia Convention on June 16, 1788, “there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

Surely, this is the story behind the New Year’s Eve, 2011, signing by
President Obama of the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA). While
they were merry-making and tootling horns, NDAA stripped Americans of
the last vestiges of their liberties. Now that President Obama can
order the military to arrest and imprison you indefinitely on
suspicion without trial, your First Amendment rights of speech, press,
assembly, and petition have no meaning. Who are you going to assemble
with from your jail cell?

NDAA is only the most recent chapter in a creeping totalitarian horror
story going back decades.  President Harry Truman vetoed the Internal
Security Act of 1950 that codified indefinite detention without trial
but his veto was overturned by Congress. Truman called  the Act "the
greatest danger to freedom of speech, press, and assembly since the
Alien and Sedition Laws of 1798,  a "mockery of the Bill of Rights"
and a "long step toward totalitarianism.”

That Act, a.k.a. the McCarran-Walter Act, was aimed at the Communist
Party of the United States and authorized incarceration of those who
would “probably engage in espionage or sabotage.” At the time it would
have been difficult to think of any example of any known U.S.
Communist Party member anywhere engaging in sabotage. By contrast, it
was about the same time the CIA was getting off to a jump start at
overthrowing foreign governments by force and violence.

Under the Act, prominent individuals considered subversive were barred
entry to the United States, limiting the free speech of American
citizens. Among them: Argentine novelist Julio Cortazar, Colombian
novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and
British novelist Graham Greene, Wikipedia recalls.

Totalitarianism continued its creep despite the objections of Senator
George McGovern of South Dakota in 1970, who vainly blasted the “no
knock” ordinance Congress pressed down upon that occupied territory
known as the District of Columbia. This law allowed police to bust
into any dwelling without a court order. McGovern referred to it as
the Big Brother Act, pointing out that “your home is no longer your
castle and your liberties are no longer your own.” That was but one
small foretaste of today’s police state powers.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act(FISA) that violated the Fourth Amendment
of the U.S. Constitution. It set up the FISA Court, and later the FISA
 Court of Review,  true "Star Chambers" that international law
Professor Francis Boyle of the University of Illinois says "are
nothing more than  rubber stamps for government requests for
unconstitutional surveillance on U.S. citizens."

"With the FISA Amendments Act approved by Obama," Boyle continues,
"there is nothing left of the Fourth Amendment that protects 'The
right of people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and
effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.' I do not
understand how any self-respecting U.S. Federal Judge can serve on the
FISA Court and the FISA Court of Review  and actively participate in
the interment of the Fourth Amendment."

According to Boyle, “After the “draconian Anti-terrorism and Effective
Death Penalty Act(AEDPA) passed by Congress in 1996 in reaction to the
bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, there was no
legitimate law enforcement need for the Patriot Act.” Among other
things, the AEDPA drastically limited the right of inmates to appeal
their death sentences.

Enactment of the Patriot Act of 2003, rushed through Congress after
9/11 and since renewed at leisure, opened the spillways of
totalitarianism to flood an entire nation. “From the gagging of our
nation’s librarians under the national security letter statute to the
gutting of time-honored surveillance laws, the Patriot Act has been
disastrous for Americans’ rights,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director
of the ACLU’s Washington office.

“In the panic following the events of 9/11, our nation’s lawmakers
hastily expanded the government’s authority to a dangerous level and
opened a Pandora’s box of surveillance,” she cautioned in a statement
on ACLU’s web site.

Amazingly, there has been scant public outcry condemning these
government actions. Few Americans objected when President Obama in
March, 2011, by executive order decreed Guantanamo detainees could be
held indefinitely---a policy that NDAA now applies to American
citizens under the NDAA.

“No president,” said the ACLU, “should have the power to declare the
entire globe a war zone and then seize and detain civilian terrorism
suspects anywhere in the world---including within the United
States---and to hold them forever without charge or trial.”

“By signing this defense spending bill(NDAA), 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.”

“This amounts to the repeal of the U.S. Constitution,” Roth said,
adding, “We have a Republican Party that is a Gestapo Party---to
arrest American citizens and put them in concentration camps.”
(Author’s note: NDAA could not have passed without the strong support
of Democratic lawmakers.)

Roth goes on to say: “The (NDAA) law replaces an effective system of
civilian-court prosecutions with a system that has generated the kind
of global outrage that would delight recruiters of terrorists.”

With the NDAA, America has now returned to the disgraceful  Korematsu
Era, when President Roosevelt ordered the military to round up
law-abiding Japanese-American citizens and stick them in concentration
camps for the duration of World War II.

“By comparison,” Boyle says,  “there is no end in sight to the bogus
U.S. war on terrorism. The United States Supreme Court has never
overruled the Korematsu case. And as a teacher of constitutional law,
President Obama is fully  aware of this loaded-gun that he now has in
his hands waiting to fire on the American people by means of the

Boyle also warns that the NDAA, coupled with the notorious Pentagon
and CIA “murder lists,” means President Obama could now start CIA and
Joint Special Operations Command(JSOC) death squads and/or
disappearance squads to render American citizens to Guantanamo Bay
prison or abroad “for torture and murder.”

If most Americans are unfamiliar with JSOC, perhaps that’s because it
operates in secret. That this menacing terror law has been enacted,
like the unconstitutional laws that preceded it, with barely a murmur
of outrage, speaks volumes about the manner in which the repressive
aspects of these laws have been hidden from the general public. It
also reflects on the indifference of the American people to the
incineration of their once cherished civil liberties on the bonfires
of totalitarianism.

You can’t say James Madison didn’t warn us in 1788.

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