03/20/2014 by syrbal-labrys
My eldest Manchild, The Pickled Jester, asked me to post one for him — his writing on his dismay over a Democratic President in an allegedly representative democracy signing into law a continuation of the erosion of American liberties:
In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center several highly questionable political decisions have occurred. Iraq was an unnecessary measure in the so-called “Global War on Terror.” The Patriot Act was unnecessary. Rampant nationalism sweeping through the nation was unnecessary. The reduction of and the removal of civil liberties and Constitutional rights is unnecessary.
Many writers and pundits like to look at the post-9/11 policies regarding securing the American state as something that occurred after, and because of, the terror attacks in September of 2001. They are not wrong, but they are not entirely correct either.
William A. Niskanen published “The Several Costs of Responding to the Threat of Terrorism” in 2006. He had not yet seen the true excess of government power – the really frightening policy did not come for another five years. However, Niskanen pointed out that the lust for increased governmental power is not new; many threats to American civil liberties were already in place prior to September of 2001:
- The U.S. military was allowed to imprison American citizens without charge or access to attorneys.
- Trials before military commissions.
- Total Information Awareness database run by the Pentagon.
- A database of all students aged 16 through 25.
So threats to American rights and liberties existed prior to the attacks. Yet these threats were, comparatively speaking, low key. Feel free to read Niskanen’s work yourself if you require additional verification. The information provided by Niskanen is not pleasant – it is alarming to have to acknowledge that our government actively sought increased authority without justification. Even more alarming is the fact that the post-9/11 world has allowed the government access to the authority they have long sought. And our elected officials gave it to them. Even now our elected officials offer compliance to the demands of a power hungry federal government – against the collective will of the American populace.
Here is how everything unfolded.
1. 11 September 2001: Attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and an unknown third target.
2. 14 September 2001: The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) is passed. The AUMF contains the following passage:
“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
3. 26 October 2001: President Bush signs into law the USA PATRIOT Act. The legislation granted the government the following abilities – all of which are seen as unconstitutional:
- Information sharing
- Roving wiretaps
- Access to records
- Sneak and Peek warrants
- Material support clause
You can read more on these provisions here.
4. 10 March 2006: President Bush renews the USA PATRIOT Act.
5. 2 May 2011: Osama bin Laden is killed by US forces.
6. 26 May 2011: President Obama signs the PATRIOT Sunsets Extension Act; a four-year extension of three powerful provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act – roving wiretaps, search of business records (library records, medical records, banking records…)and the surveillance of “lone wolves.”
7. 30 September 2011: An American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, is killed in a US drone strike. Awlaki was not charged in an American court, nor was evidence presented to a court or judge; his death was issued by the Office of the President. Additionally, his death occurred at the hands of a CIA controlled drone strike in Yemen – a country we were not at war with.
8. 31 December 2011: President Obama signs the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012. The NDAA of 2012 formally codified the ability and authority of the United States military to indefinitely detain individuals without charge or trial. More important is that the 2012 NDAA allowed, under section 1021, the military to “arrest and hold Americans without the writ of habeas corpus.”
9. 2 January 2013: President Obama signs the NDAA 2013. The revised bill is essentially the same as 2012 – the military can still arrest American citizens with Presidential authority. An amendment to the bill was inserted that authorized detained American citizens their Constitutional rights – but no measure was taken to combat or erase the provision for indefinite detention.
10. 26 December 2013: President Obama signs into law the NDAA 2014. The provision allowing for indefinite detention remains in full effect. Additionally, the 2014 version of the bill contains provisions that strengthen surveillance powers.
That is a brief timeline of how the government has usurped the public authority in a presumed democracy. While the information provided in this post may not seem alarming to the majority of people, I assure you that every American citizen should not only be alarmed, but enraged.
The recent exposure of efforts at the NSA to spy on, and collect information of Americans should be cause for concern even without the abilities detailed above. The Fourth Amendment guarantees the right to be secure in their “persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” That right is ignored with impunity by various agencies with the Federal government.
The ability of the military to act as internal police force is anathema to a democratic nation. The old phrase, crossing the Rubicon, refers to Caesar crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC – an act that was condemned as an insurrection against the lawful authorities of Rome. While America has not yet witnessed marital law, nor to my knowledge has the military acted upon its newfound authority, the fact that such power is codified in national law is a dangerous and frightening precedent. To make matters worse, the government is not required to provide the American public with a list of any citizens detained by the military – only Congress is entitled to such information.
This unprecedented grant of authority for the central and state governments is appallingly anti-democratic. For the past 14 years Americans have been in a fear-induced coma regarding the violations of their civil liberties and constitutional rights, and we have ceded far too much power to shadowy organizations; and that power will not be easily removed.
Thomas Paine, the author of Common Sense and American revolutionary, wrote that “Government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; it its worst state an intolerable one.” Paine believed that government was necessary to curb the worst elements of human nature – and he is correct – but he also believed that a government could exceed its mandate and become a monstrous reflection of the most criminal facets of human nature.
If Paine were alive today he would be both furious and outraged at what our government has become. Thomas Jefferson would be humiliated that his nation had descended to what he would no doubt call despotism. The entirety of our national history – every man and woman who has dedicated their life to the cause that was the American dream – would be ashamed at what we have allowed this nation to become.