Congress Removes Due Process For Americans
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger . . . without due process of law.” (Fifth Amendment to the Constitution of theUnited States of America)
On December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, both houses of the U.S. Congress passed versions of a bill that would remove the constitutional right of due process for American citizens arrested onAmerica’s soil. The bills are now in the hands of a committee which is working to eliminate differences between them so that both houses can approve the same version, which would then be sent to President Obama to sign into law.
Incredibly, if the President signs the bill, everyAmericareading these words could be detained “indefinitely” by theU.S.military without a trial, simply on suspicion of being involved with terrorism.
Fortunately, the Obama Administration has threatened a veto.
Unfortunately, the President’s concern has nothing to do with violating the fifth amendment to the Constitution.
On the contrary, the Congressional versions of the bill would limit the Administration’s arrest powers too narrowly as far as President Obama is concerned. His administration “has been stressing the need for flexibility in their powers to collect information and incapacitate terrorists, which likely means that they want to retain the power to detain suspects outside the context of war and the Geneva Convention protections that would apply.” (See the analysis at the OpenCongress link above.)
Translation: Congress wants to give the military, under President Obama as Commander In Chief, the right to imprison Americans on American soil without a trial, and to hold them in prison for as long as they desire, yet President Obama doesn’t believe such a bill gives him enough power.
Senators John McCain (R/AZ) and
The bills are based on the assumption that theU.S.civil justice system cannot adequately deal with terrorism as a crime. That terrorism deserves a special category of its own, with terrorists considered “enemy combatants,” and as such dealt with as prisoners of war, to be detained until the “war on terror” is over.
But the American justice system has been dealing with treasonous Americans quite well for centuries. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, for example, were born and raised in New York city. The couple was indicted by a civilian grand jury, arrested, charged with treason as spies for the Soviet Union, and executed on June 19, 1953. TheRosenbergs allegedly gave theSoviet Union top secret information about the atomic bomb, an act which surely threatened national security more than anything al-Qaeda has yet done. Yet their entire case was tried in civilian court. Clearly,America’s law enforcement system is up to the task of detaining, trying, and even executing Americans who betray their country, and it can all be done within the constitutional parameters established by the Founders.
The heads of the Defense Department, FBI, CIA, and Director of National Intelligence are all on record as opposing the provisions in the law which shift responsibility for enforcement from civilian courts to the military and which apply the unlimited detainment provisions of the Patriot Act to Americans arrested in the United States.
In addition, Senator Rand Paul (R/KY) made the following comments about the bill being contemplated by the President and U.S. Congress:
“We are talking about [the arrest and indefinite detention of] people who are merely suspected of a crime. We are talking about American citizens. If these provisions pass, we could see American citizens being sent toGuantanamoBay. This should be alarming to everyone because it puts every single American citizen at risk . . . There is one thing and one thing only protecting innocent Americans from being detained at will by the hands of a too-powerful state: our Constitution and the checks it puts on government power. Should we err and remove some of the most important checks on state power in the name of fighting terrorism, well, then the terrorists will have won.”
Senator Paul is correct. The gravest threat to American freedom at this moment in history is not al-Qaeda. It is our own government.