Steve Lendman blog February 21 2013
Over the past year I and other plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg have pressed a lawsuit in the federal courts to nullify Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This egregious section, which permits the government to use the military to detain U.S. citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military detention centers, could have been easily fixed by Congress. The Senate and House had the opportunity this month to include in the 2013 version of the NDAA an unequivocal statement that all U.S. citizens would be exempt from 1021(b)(2), leaving the section to apply only to foreigners. But restoring due process for citizens was something the Republicans and the Democrats, along with the White House, refused to do. The fate of some of our most basic and important rights—ones enshrined in the Bill of Rights as well as the Fourth and Fifth amendments of the Constitution—will be decided in the next few months in the courts. If the courts fail us, a gulag state will be cemented into place.
Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, pushed through the Senate an amendment to the 2013 version of the NDAA. The amendment, although deeply flawed, at least made a symbolic attempt to restore the right to due process and trial by jury. A House-Senate conference committee led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., however, removed the amendment from the bill last week.
“I was saddened and disappointed that we could not take a step forward to ensure at the very least American citizens and legal residents could not be held in detention without charge or trial,” Feinstein said in a statement issued by her office. “To me that was a no-brainer.”
The House approved the $633 billion NDAA for 2013 in a 315-107 vote late Thursday night. It will now go before the Senate. Several opponents of the NDAA in the House, including Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Va., cited Congress’ refusal to guarantee due process and trial by jury to all citizens as his reason for voting against the bill. He wrote in a statement after the vote that “American citizens may fear being arrested and indefinitely detained by the military without knowing what they have done wrong.”
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is holding up consideration of the fiscal 2013 defense authorization bill over an amendment he plans to offer that would require a jury trial for Americans detained in terrorism investigations.
A Paul spokeswoman said the senator wants “an agreement in principle to get a vote” on the amendment, which would likely produce some fireworks on the floor.
Paul’s demand for a vote comes as Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Arizona Sen. John McCain, the top Republican on the panel, are working behind the scenes to limit debate on the sprawling policy measure (S 3254) to ensure it receives floor time during the lame-duck session.
On Thursday, Levin said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had given him and McCain control of the length of time needed for the bill. Their goal, he added, is to get it on and off the floor in three days.
But, in order to do so, the two lawmakers must try to steer clear of amendments that could take up significant floor time and potentially jeopardize passage of the bill.
The British reaction to Mitt Romney has gone from openness, to skepticism, to mocking, to concluding that Mitt Romney is worse than Sarah Palin.
Daily Mail Political Editor James Chapman has been providing the world a play by play of Romney’s British implosion via his Twitter account. Romney started things off by criticizing London’s preparedness for the Olympics. He then forgot the name of British Labour Leader Ed Miliband, and then he admitted that he had been given a secret briefing by MI6. This led the British to ask aloud if they have another George W. Bush on their hands, “Romney blunders again by revealing he’s had (supposedly) top secret briefing by John Sawers, MI6 boss. Do we have a new Dubya on our hands?”
After his visit to Whitehall, Chapman offered two of the kinder reviews of Mitt Romney, “Serious dismay in Whitehall at Romney debut. ‘Worse than Sarah Palin.’ ‘Total car crash’. Two of the kinder verdicts.” Chapman also reported another verdict from British meet and greet with Mitt, “Another verdict from one Romney meeting: ‘Apparently devoid of charm, warmth, humour or sincerity’”
Getting compared to Sarah Palin is one thing, but being called worse than Palin is an indication of the epic display of fail that Romney is putting on in London.
If you thought things couldn’t possibly get worse for Mitt Romney, you were wrong. How does one top being unfavorably compared to Sarah Palin? If you’re Mitt Romney, you get mocked in front of 60,000 people.
OPINION ~ BILL MOYERS: This week Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorganChase testified before the Senate Banking Committee on how his bank got it wrong on risk management– in London. What would you think if I told you that seven members of the Senate Banking Committee have been big recipients of money from JPMorgan Chase?
THOMAS FRANK: I would not be surprised, (LAUGH) not in the least. That’s obviously where JPMorgan would be spending its lobbying dollar would be on the– the– you know, giving to the campaigns of the people on that committee. That’s the wisest strategic choice for them.
BILL MOYERS: And get this. The bank has been the second largest contributor to Senator Tim Johnson, Democrat, the chairman of the committee . What do you suppose he was thinking as Jamie Dimon testified “Those are great cufflinks Jamie has on. I wonder if I could borrow them.”
THOMAS FRANK: Yeah, something like that. And I got news for you. They also — I mean, you know this already — they also were one of the biggest donors– or I should say they’re employees to President Obama’s campaign in 2008 and also to, I believe, John McCain’s campaign in 2008. This is the nature of what they do. They spread their wealth around, you know.
BILL MOYERS: And there’s more. One of Senator Johnson’s former staffers is now one of JPMorgan’s chief lobbyists. And the chairman’s present top assistant used to be a lobbyist for a law firm that worked for JPMorgan. I mean, this wasn’t a hearing. This was a reunion of the Gambino family.
THOMAS FRANK: Well, look, this is what we call in Washington the revolving door, okay. And this — if your viewers haven’t heard of this they need to learn about it right away ’cause this is how Washington D.C. works– is that people go back and forth typically from Capitol Hill staffs to working for lobby firms or directly for these, you know, the clients of the lobby firms that have to do with the interests that they used to work on when they were on Capitol Hill.
A friend who works in Congress and actually reads the Congressional Record suggested that a collection of excerpted falsehoods by Republicans on the floor of the House of Representatives and Senate would make compelling evidence for the truth of economist Albert Hirschman’s book, The Rhetoric of Reaction (1991).
Professor Hirschman, a very original political economist, found throughout American history the following three propositions were commonly used to counter social justice efforts:
The Perversity Thesis states government action only serves to exacerbate the problem being addressed;
The Futility Thesis holds that attempts at social policy will simply fail to solve the problem;
The Jeopardy Thesis argues that the cost of the proposed change or reform is too high and will lead to disaster.
The only people who know more about this sequential rhetoric than Mr. Hirschman are corporate lawyers and their corporate clients’ publicists. For over two hundred years they and their corporations have opposed virtually every advance for better and fairer lives of the American people using propaganda which fits into Hirschman’s frameworks. Whether it was the abolition of slavery, child labor, and the 70 hour week, or women’s right to vote, trade union rights, the progressive income tax, unemployment compensation, social security and, of course, the various regulatory standards protecting consumers, worker safety and the environment, the arguments against them have been pretty much the same.
As the fascinating “Cry Wolf Project” staff observed: “We’ve heard these all before. Perversity: if you raise the minimum wage, you’ll increase unemployment. Futility: tobacco warning labels won’t stop people from smoking. And Jeopardy: it’s a ‘job killer.’”
“Far more people have become rich and famous for telling lies and falsehoods than people who have a habit of telling the truth and reciting facts.”
The “Cry Wolf Project” presents verbatim quotations from the corporate bosses from years past and then lets their words speak for themselves. Here is a sample:
Henry Ford II, in 1966, on long-overdue safety standards such as laminated windshields, dual-braking systems, collapsible steering wheels and seat belts: “Many of the temporary standards are unreasonable, arbitrary and technically unfeasible… If we can’t meet them when they are published we’ll have to close down.” To his credit, ten years later on national television, Mr. Ford recognized that due to federal regulations, cars were safer, more efficient and less polluting.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein today will challenge a law signed by President Obama that allows the military to arrest and imprison, without charge or trial, Americans suspected of terrorism.
The California Democrat has argued that the detainee provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act are a contemporary version of a World War II executive order that sent about 110,000 Japanese Americans to relocation camps throughout California and the West in what is considered one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history.
Feinstein will chair a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a bill she is sponsoring, the Due Process Guarantee Act, that would change the detainee portions of the law that the president signed in December. The bill has 24 co-sponsors including four Republicans, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Mike Lee of Utah, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
Among those scheduled to testify today is Lorraine Bannai, a law professor at Seattle Universitywhose parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were incarcerated at the Manzanar relocation camp in the California desert during World War II.
Since Obama signed the law, it has generated an outcry from an unusual coalition of groups on the liberal left and libertarian right. Legislatures in several states, including Virginia, Missouri and Tennessee, have passed resolutions to urge that the law not be implemented.
Due Process Violated?
Critics contend the law violates basic due-process rights and turns back a post-Reconstruction injunction against using the military against civilians at home.
Bruce Fein, a former Justice Department official in the Reagan administration, said the law “authorizes the president to employ the military to show up on any of our doorsteps and say, ‘We think, based upon secret facts, you’re … in some kind of way associated with al Qaeda that is fighting against our coalition partners, whoever they are. You can’t challenge any of our evidence, and you can go to Guantanamo Bay and rot for the rest of your life.’ ”
December 1st, 2011, the US Senate accomplished the unthinkable–with the nearly unanimous passage of the National Defense Authorization Bill of 2012–they committed treason. Written and planned in secret by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the newly minted NDAA contains three sections which collectively sanctions indefinite detention of alleged terrorists or ‘terrorist sympathizers’–anywhere in the world including the US– and designates the military the duty to arrest, imprison and interrogate without benefit of counsel,’ accused civilians here on Main Street. Ironically, the abuse of civilian Iraqis by our military and by military contractors is coming to a locale near you.
Theoretically, armed squads of US soldiers might be knocking on your door in the dead of night to take away Auntie Mame for her alleged ‘terrorist’ activities—at the ACLU. This bill potentially allows for the blatant political prosecutions of any dissenter using the military as a bully club to instill deep fear in any who dare to question our government’s motives.
No proof of wrongdoing is required and those accused are denied the due process right of trial by their peers, or the services of an attorney– and are subsequently relegated to the ‘military commissions justice system.’ As a result–the accused are reduced to the status of ‘unlawful enemy combatant,’ and are subject to the following actions: ‘extroardinary rendition’, ‘enhanced interrogation’ procedures, ‘indefinite detention to possibly a life sentence, and ‘presidential assigned extermination of target’ . These powers are then ‘given’ to the President to use at will, fully codified in law,while requiring in reality no proof other than presidential whim.
OPINION | The 2012 presidential race officially begins today with the caucuses in Iowa, and we all know what that means …
The race for the White House is normally an event suffused with drama, sucking eyeballs to the page all over the globe. Just as even the non-British were at least temporarily engaged by last year’s royal wedding, people all over the world are normally fascinated by the presidential race: both dramas arouse the popular imagination as real-life versions of universal children’s fairy tales.
Instead of a tale about which maiden gets to marry the handsome prince, the campaign is an epic story, complete with a gleaming white castle at the end, about the battle to succeed to the king’s throne. Since the presidency is the most powerful office in the world, the tale has appeal for people all over the planet, from jungles to Siberian villages.
It takes an awful lot to rob the presidential race of this elemental appeal. But this year’s race has lost that buzz. In fact, this 2012 race may be the most meaningless national election campaign we’ve ever had. If the presidential race normally captivates the public as a dramatic and angry ideological battle pitting one impassioned half of society against the other, this year’s race feels like something else entirely.
Alexander Cockburn | Nation Of Change
December 23 2011
OP-ED | Too bad Kim Jong-il kicked the bucket last weekend. If the divine hand that laid low the North Korean leader had held off for a week or so, Kim would have been sustained by the news that President Obama had signed into law a bill that puts the United States not immeasurably far from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in contempt of constitutional protections for its citizens or constitutional restraints upon criminal behavior sanctioned by the state.
At least the DPRK doesn’t trumpet its status as the least-best sanctuary of liberty. American politicians, starting with the president, do little else.
A couple of months ago, came a mile-marker in America’s steady slide downhill towards the status of a Banana Republic with Obama’s assertion that he has the right as president to secretly order the assassination, without trial, of a U.S. citizen he deems to be working with terrorists. This followed his 2009 betrayal of his pledge to end the indefinite imprisonment without charges or trial of prisoners in Guantanamo.
After months of declaring that he would veto such legislation, Obama has now crumbled and will soon sign a monstrosity called the Levin/McCain detention bill, named for its two senatorial sponsors, Carl Levin and John McCain. It’s snuggled into the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
The detention bill mandates — don’t glide too easily past that word — that all accused terrorists be indefinitely imprisoned by the military rather than in the civilian court system; this includes U.S. citizens within the borders of the United States.
All onslaughts on potential sedition like to cast as wide a net as possible, so the detention act authorizes use of military force against anyone who “substantially supports” al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces.” Of course, “associated forces” can mean anything. The bill’s language mentions, “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or who has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.” That’s language that can be bent, at will, by any prosecutor. Protest too vigorously the assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar al Awlaki by American forces in Yemen in October and one day it’s not fanciful to expect the thump of the military jackboot on your front step, or on that of any anti-war organizer, or any journalist whom some zealous military intelligence officer deems to be giving objective support to the forces of evil and darkness. Since 1878, here in the U.S., the Posse Comitatus Act has limited the powers of local governments and law enforcement agencies from using federal military personnel to enforce the laws of the land. The detention bill renders the Posse Comitatus Act a dead letter.
Jack Kenny | The New American
OPINION | Well, now they have done it. On Tuesday a bipartisan total of 61 Senators voted for and only 37 voted against provisions in latest Defense Authorization Act that would authorize the President of the United States to arrest and detain indefinitely, without charges or trial, people suspected of being enemies, or linked to enemies of the United States.
Most Democrats voted against the provisions but only two Republicans voted nay — despite the fact that it is the Republicans more than the Democrats who talk about the importance of abiding by the Constitution. The two Republican Senators who have both read and respected the Constitution of the United States and therefore voted against the travesty were Mark Kirk of Illinois and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
The vote is such a blatant thumbing of senatorial noses at the Constitution of the United States that it might even be called revolutionary — or counterrevolutionary, meaning that it is an attempt to at least partially overthrow the revolution against the tyranny of the British crown beginning with the Declaration of Independence in 1776. When former Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) was criticized by some of his Senate colleagues for following a line of reasoning that is “pre-911,” the Senator, who cast the lone Senate vote against the controversial Patriot Act, replied that his critics were exhibiting a manner of reasoning that might be called “pre-1776.”
It might even be called, for the historically minded, “pre-1215,” the year English noblemen forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, which guaranteed, among other things, the right of habeas corpus.
That is, lest we forget, the right to appear before an independent magistrate and hear the charges against the defendant and to be given a right to challenge those charges, any and all witnesses and the evidence behind the charges. That is what the U.S. Senate would now deny you. Ironically the Obama administration, whose defense of civil liberties has been well short of stalwart, has opposed these provisions that the Senate overwhelmingly passed Tuesday night. The attorney general has said the legislation is not needed and would, indeed, be counterproductive. The Secretary of Defense has said the same. The President has reportedly threatened a veto should the measure pass the House. It is bad enough that this war-making President is seen as the peace candidate when compared to the militaristic Republicans and their neocon, dot.com warriors in the Fourth Estate. It is even more outrageous if the Republicans will now make Barack Obama the defender of the Bill of Rights.
Chris Anders (ACLU) | RS_News
November 26 2011
OPINION | While nearly all Americans head to family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving, the Senate is gearing up for a vote on Monday or Tuesday that goes to the very heart of who we are as Americans. The Senate will be voting on a bill that will direct American military resources not at an enemy shooting at our military in a war zone, but at American citizens and other civilians far from any battlefield – even people in the United States itself.
Senators need to hear from you, on whether you think your front yard is part of a “battlefield” and if any president can send the military anywhere in the world to imprison civilians without charge or trial.
The Senate is going to vote on whether Congress will give this president – and every future president – the power to order the military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians anywhere in the world. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) raised his concerns about the NDAA detention provisions during last night’s Republican debate. The power is so broad that even US citizens could be swept up by the military and the military could be used far from any battlefield, even within the United States itself.
The worldwide indefinite detention without charge or trial provision is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which will be on the Senate floor on Monday. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing.
I know it sounds incredible. New powers to use the military worldwide, even within the United States? Hasn’t anyone told the Senate that Osama bin Laden is dead, that the president is pulling all of the combat troops out of Iraq and trying to figure out how to get combat troops out of Afghanistan too? And American citizens and people picked up on American or Canadian or British streets being sent to military prisons indefinitely without even being charged with a crime. Really? Does anyone think this is a good idea? And why now?