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Congressional Tyranny, White House Surrender

By Ralph Nader

15 December, 2011

Paraphrasing Shakespeare, something is rotten in the state of Capitol Hill. A majority of Congress is just about to put the finishing touches on an amendment to the military budget authorization legislation that will finish off some critical American rights under our Constitution.

Here is how two retired 4 star marine generals, Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar, described in the New York Times the stripmining of your freedom to resist tyranny in urging a veto by President Obama:

“One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past….

“A second provision would mandate military custody for most terrorism suspects. It would force on the military responsibilities it hasn’t sought”…. "for domestic law enforcement….”

“A third provision would further extend a ban on transfers from Guantanamo, ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future.”

All of Obama’s leading military and security officials oppose this codification of the ultimate Big Brother power. Imagine allowing the government to deny people accused of involvement with terrorism (undefined), including U.S. citizens arrested within the United States, the right to a trial by jury. Imagine allowing indefinite imprisonment for those accused without even proffering charges against them. Goodbye 5th and 6th Amendments.

On some government agency’s unbridled order: just pick them up, arrest them without charges and throw them into the military brig indefinitely. This atrocity deserves to be repeatedly condemned loudly throughout the land by Americans who believe in the rights of due process, habeas corpus, right to confront your accusers, right to a jury trial—in short, liberty and the just rule of law.

Some stalwart lawyers are speaking out soundly: They include Georgetown Law Professor, David Cole, George Washington University Law Professor, Jonathan Turley, Republican lawyer, Bruce Fein, former American Bar Association (2005-2006) president, Michael Greco, and the always alert lawyers at the civil liberties groups. Their well-grounded outcries are not awakening the citizenry.

Where are the one million lawyers? Where are the thousands of law professors? Where are the scores of law school deans? Are they not supposed to be our first constitutional responders?

Where is the Tea Party and its haughty rhetoric about the sanctity of constitutional liberty? Most of the Tea caucus voted for tyranny. Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul has been an outspoken critic of this attack on our civil liberties.

The majority also voted to ratify a dictatorial procedure in the Congress, as well. This indefinite, arbitrary, open-ended dictatorial White House mandate was never subjected to even a House or Senate Committee hearing, and was not explained with any rationale known as legislative “findings.” It was rammed through by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees without the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees invoking their concurrent jurisdiction for public hearings.

So extreme are these majority Congressional extremists, composed of both Republicans and renegade Democrats, the latter led by Senator Carl Levin, that the Obama Administration has to lecture them about the fundamental American principle that “our military does not patrol our streets.”

It is not as if the imperial presidencies of Bush and Obama need any more encouragement and legitimization to continue on their lawless paths to criminal wars of aggression, unlawful surveillance, arbitrary slayings of innocents, wrongful imprisonments, and unauthorized spending. Instead of Congress using its constitutional authority regarding the war, appropriations and investigative powers, it formalizes its impotence by handing the “go for it” power to the Executive branch with the vaguest of language boundaries.

Usually there are a few Senators whose upfront defense of our Constitution would lead them to stand tall against the “Senate Club” and put a “hold” on this pernicious amendment. Civil libertarians hope that, before the final Senate vote in the rush to get home for the Holidays, Senators Rand Paul, Tom Harkin, Al Franken, Richard Blumenthal, Ron Wyden, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Tom Coburn or Mike Lee would step forth.

A “hold” could spark the demand for public hearings and floor debate to give the American people the time and information to react and ask themselves “how dare Congress take away our most fundamental rights?”

President Obama initially threatened to veto the entire bill and make Congress drop these pernicious dictates that so insult the memory and vision of our founding fathers. He is already signaling that he doesn’t have the backbone to reject the false choice “between our safety and our ideals,” that he asserted in his Inaugural Address.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is, Only The Super-Rich Can Save Us. His most recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.




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