By Grant Davies
Do you think the title to this piece is over the top? I'm sure some of you do. But I can assure you that I'm serious. And as you celebrate Bill of Rights Day today (12-15) you might want to give some thought to the irony of what is going to happen to one of those rights as things unfold on the glorious national holiday that no one has ever heard of.
There are quite a few fundamental rights that we all used to take for granted because we lived in a "free" country. Many of those rights have been watered down so much by various laws that they have effectively been taken away from us. The list is pretty long, but even if there were just one item on it, it would be too long for crazy, inflexible people like me.
The President is about to sign into law a power he has coveted for some time. You can read what others are saying,The Guardian in the UK has an excellent piece. The vast majority of Americans are clueless about what just happened in congress and even if they did know, I'm not convinced they would care.
Just as many were not opposed to rampant wiretapping in the past, because "if you don't do anything wrong, you have nothing to fear", many will not be alarmed by this new law because, "I'm not a terrorist, so the government won't revoke my right to a fair trial by a jury of my peers."
In case you were distracted by events in the Russian elections recently, I'll tell you what you missed here at home that might remind one of what happens routinely in Russia. The right of Habeas Corpus was just suspended.
As part of the defense authorization bill that funds the US military, the President himself can decide to detain anyone, American citizens included, indefinitely - perhaps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - if he suspects that they are a terrorist. And he would use the military itself to do so. On suspicion alone, no formal arrest, no rights given, no attorney, no arraignment, no trial, no judge, no jury.
People as diverse as Senator Rand Paul and Senator Dianne Feinstein opposed this bill, the latter saying; "Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge," she went on, "We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge."
But those that prevailed, led by Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, argued otherwise. The latter saying; “It is not unfair to make an American citizen account for the fact that they decided to help Al Qaeda to kill us all and hold them as long as it takes to find intelligence about what may be coming next,” remarked Graham. “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them, ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.’”
Even Comedy Central got this one right when they summed it up by saying; "while the Bush administration just assumed that the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force empowered them to imprison people without charges, the Obama administration will have these provisions formally codified. Rule of law, baby!"
So, happy Bill of Rights Day. You needn't worry too much right now about whether you personally will be detained indefinately and denied your rights as an American citizen. Most likely, you will not be. What will happen in the future is anyone's guess.
But if you are as concerned about this as I am, and if someone asks you what state you live in, just answer, Police. That way you can go "over the top" with me without taking the trouble to explain it all.