Human Rights Watch decries U.S. prison system January 31, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Torture, War on Terror.
Tags: capital punishment, civil liberties, counterterrorism, death penalty, extrajudicial killing, Guantanamo, hrw, human rights, Human Rights Watch, indefinite detention, natasha lennard, ndaa, prison industrial complex, prisons, roger hollander, sokitary confinement, torture, us prisons
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Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 10:25 AM EST
The NGO’s World Report criticizes mass incarceration and U.S. record of torture and extrajudicial killing
Human Rights Watch Thursday published its annual World Report, in which it lays out a pointed critique of the U.S. prison system. The enormous prison population — the largest in the world at 1.6million — “partly reflects harsh sentencing practices contrary to international law,” notes the report.
The 2013 World Report, a 665-page tome which assesses human rights progress in the past year in 90 countries, highlights particular issues undergirding the U.S.’s blighted carceral system. It notes that “practices contrary to human rights principles, such as the death penalty, juvenile life-without-parole sentences, and solitary confinement are common and often marked by racial disparities.” Via HRW:
Research in 2012 found that the massive over-incarceration includes a growing number of elderly people whom prisons are ill-equipped to handle, and an estimated 93,000 youth under age 18 in adult jails and another 2,200 in adult prisons. Hundreds of children are subjected to solitary confinement. Racial and ethnic minorities remain disproportionately represented in the prison population.
HRW cite statistics often used to show racial disparities in the U.S. prison system. For example, while whites, African Americans and Latinos have comparable rates of drug use, African Americans are arrested for drug offenses, including possession, at three times the rate of white men.
“The United States has shown little interest in tackling abusive practices that have contributed to the country’s huge prison population,” said Maria McFarland, deputy U.S. program director at Human Rights Watch. “Unfortunately, it is society’s most vulnerable – racial and ethnic minorities, low-income people, immigrants, children, and the elderly – who are most likely to suffer from injustices in the criminal justice system.”
Although noting some progress in 2012 (both D.C. and Connecticut joined the ranks of 16 states to have abolished the death penalty), HRW also stressed continuing injustices in U.S. immigration policies, labor issues and treatment of minorities, women, the disabled and HIV positive individuals. The report was particularly critical when reviewing the U.S.’s counterterrorism policies. The NGO noted in a statement:
Both the Obama administration and Congress supported abusive counterterrorism laws and policies, including detention without charge at Guantanamo Bay, restrictions on the transfer of detainees held there, and prosecutions in a fundamentally flawed military commission system. Attacks by US aerial drones were carried out in Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, and elsewhere, with important legal questions about the attacks remaining unanswered.
The administration has taken no steps toward accountability for torture and other abuses committed by US officials in the so-called “war on terror,” and a Justice Department criminal investigation into detainee abuse concluded without recommending any charges. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence completed a more than 6,000-page report detailing the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation program, but has yet to seek the report’s declassification so it can be released to the public.
The World Report explicitly mentions Obama’s signing of the NDAA in 2011 (an act he repeated this year), noting, “The act codified the existing executive practice of detaining terrorism suspects indefinitely without charge, and required that certain terrorism suspects be initially detained by the military if captured inside the U.S..”
Next week, the lawsuit against Obama over the NDAA’s definite detention provision will be back in federal court as plaintiffs including Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky seek an injunction prohibiting indefinite detention of civilians without charge or trial.
Comments from HRW’s McFarland point out what’s at stake for the president here: “The Obama administration has a chance in its second term to develop with Congress a real plan for closing Guantanamo and definitively ending abusive counterterrorism practices,” McFarland said. “A failure to do so puts Obama at risk of going down in history as the president who made indefinite detention without trial a permanent part of U.S. law.”
Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email email@example.com. More Natasha Lennard.
Obama fights ban on indefinite detention of Americans August 8, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice.
Tags: chris hedges, civil liberties, Court, fifth amendment, first amendment, habeas corpus, indefinite detention, law, leon panetta, ndaa, Obama, roger hollander, terrorists, USA, war on terror
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(AFP Photo / Paul J. Richards)
Roger’s note: The phrase “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” used to be used jokingly. It is no joke what Obama is doing. This president, who is reputed to be a constitutional scholar, is systematically tramping over the constitution and what is perhaps the most important and precious civil and legal protections, habeas corpus. Imagine how this precedent will be used under some of the Republican nut cases who are likely to be future presidents. Frightening.
www.rt.com, August 7, 2012
The White House has filed an appeal in hopes of reversing a federal judge’s ruling that bans the indefinite military detention of Americans because attorneys for the president say they are justified to imprison alleged terrorists without charge.
Manhattan federal court Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in May that the indefinite detention provisions signed into law late last year by US President Barack Obama failed to “pass constitutional muster” and ordered a temporary injunction to keep the military from locking up any person, American or other, over allegations of terrorist ties. On Monday, however, federal prosecutors representing President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta filed a claim with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of eliminating that ban.
The plaintiffs “cannot point to a single example of the military’s detaining anyone for engaging in conduct even remotely similar to the type of expressive activities they allege could lead to detention,” Obama’s attorneys insist. With that, the White House is arguing that as long as the indefinite detention law hasn’t be enforced yet, there is no reason for a judge to invalidate it.
Reuters reports this week that the government believes they are justified to have the authorization to lock alleged belligerents up indefinitely because cases involving militants directly aligned against the good of the US government warrants such punishment. Separate from Judge Forrest’s injunction, nine states have attempted to, at least in part, remove themselves from the indefinite detention provisions of included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, or NDAA.
In section 1021 of the NDAA, the president’s authority to hold a terrorism suspect “without trial, until the end of the hostilities” is reaffirmed by Congress. Despite an accompanying signing statement voicing his opposition to that provision, President Obama quietly inked his name to the NDAA on December 31, 2011. In May, however, a group of plaintiffs including notable journalists and civil liberty proponents challenged section 1021 in court, leading to Just Forrest to find it unconstitutional one month later.
“There is a strong public interest in protecting rights guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Forrest wrote in her 68-page ruling. “There is also a strong public interest in ensuring that due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment are protected by ensuring that ordinary citizens are able to understand the scope of conduct that could subject them to indefinite military detention.”
At the time Just Forrest made her injunction, attorney Carl Mayer told RT on behalf of the plaintiffs that, although he expected the White House to appeal, “It may not be in their best interest.”
“[T]here are so many people from all sides of the political spectrum opposed to this law that they ought to just say, ‘We’re not going to appeal,’” Mayer said. “The NDAA cannot be used to pick up Americans in a proverbial black van or in any other way that the administration might decide to try to get people into the military justice system. It means that the government is foreclosed now from engaging in this type of action against the civil liberties of Americans.”
The original plaintiffs, who include Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges, have asked Just Forrest to make her injunction permanent. Oral arguments in the case are expected to begin this week.
Federal court enjoins NDAA May 16, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Constitution, Criminal Justice, Democracy.
Tags: civil liberties, Criminal Justice, fifth amendment, first amendment, free speech, glenn greenwald, indefinite detention, katherine forrest, ndaa, roger hollander, war on terror
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ROGER’S NOTE: THIS IS AN ENCOURAGING DEVELOPMENT; HOWEVER, IF AND WHEN THIS GETS TO THE SUPREME COURT, WE CAN, UNFORTUNATELY, ONLY EXPECT THAT THE TOTALITARIAN MINDED MAJORITY WILL UPHOLD THE DRACONIAN ELEMENTS OF NDAA.
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 04:14 PM EST
An Obama-appointed judge rules its indefinite detention provisions likely violate the 1st and 5th Amendments
President Obama (Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster)
A federal district judge today, the newly-appointed Katherine Forrest of the Southern District of New York, issued an amazing ruling: one which preliminarily enjoins enforcement of the highly controversial indefinite provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, enacted by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last December. This afternoon’s ruling came as part of a lawsuit brought by seven dissident plaintiffs — including Chris Hedges, Dan Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, and Brigitta Jonsdottir — alleging that the NDAA violates ”both their free speech and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment as well as due process rights guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
The ruling was a sweeping victory for the plaintiffs, as it rejected each of the Obama DOJ’s three arguments: (1) because none of the plaintiffs has yet been indefinitely detained, they lack “standing” to challenge the statute; (2) even if they have standing, the lack of imminent enforcement against them renders injunctive relief unnecessary; and (3) the NDAA creates no new detention powers beyond what the 2001 AUMF already provides.
As for the DOJ’s first argument — lack of standing — the court found that the plaintiffs are already suffering substantial injury from the reasonable fear that they could be indefinitely detained under section 1021 of the NDAA as a result of their constitutionally protected activities. As the court explained (h/t Charles Michael):
In support of their motion, Plaintiffs assert that § 1021 already has impacted their associational and expressive activities–and would continue to impact them, and that § 1021 is vague to such an extent that it provokes fear that certain of their associational and expressive activities could subject them to indefinite or prolonged military detention.
The court found that the plaintiffs have “shown an actual fear that their expressive and associational activities” could subject them to indefinite detention under the law,and “each of them has put forward uncontroverted evidence of concrete — non-hypothetical — ways in which the presence of the legislation has already impacted those expressive and associational activities” (as but one example, Hedges presented evidence that his “prior journalistic activities relating to certain organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Taliban” proves “he has a realistic fear that those activities will subject him to detention under § 1021″). Thus, concluded the court, these plaintiffs have the right to challenge the constitutionality of the statute notwithstanding the fact that they have not yet been detained under it; that’s because its broad, menacing detention powers are already harming them and the exercise of their constitutional rights.
Significantly, the court here repeatedly told the DOJ that it could preclude standing for the plaintiffs if they were willing to state clearly that none of the journalistic and free speech conduct that the plaintiffs engage in could subject them to indefinite detention. But the Government refused to make any such representation. Thus, concluded the court, “plaintiffs have stated a more than plausible claim that the statute inappropriately encroaches on their rights under the First Amendment.”
Independently, the court found that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on their claim that the NDAA violates their Fifth Amendment due process rights because the statute is so vague that it is virtually impossible to know what conduct could subject one to indefinite detention. Specifically, the court focused on the NDAA’s authorization to indefinitely detain not only Al Qaeda members, but also members of so-called “associated forces” and/or anyone who “substantially supports” such forces, and noted:
Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood of success on their vagueness challenge. The terms upon which they focused at the hearing relate to who is a “covered person.” In that regard, plaintiffs took issue with the lack of definition and clarity regarding who constitutes an “associated forces,” and what it means to “substantially” or “directly” “support” such forces or, al-Qaeda or the Taliban. . . .
The Government was unable to define precisely what ”direct” or “substantial” “support” means. . . .Thus, an individual could run the risk of substantially supporting or directly supporting an associated force without even being aware that he or she was doing so.
Perhaps most importantly, the court categorically rejected the central defense of this odious bill from the Obama administration and its defenders: namely, that it did nothing more than the 2001 AUMF already did and thus did not really expand the Government’s power of indefinite detention. The court cited three reasons why the NDAA clearly expands the Government’s detention power over the 2001 AUMF (all of which I previously cited when denouncing this bill).
First, “by its terms, the AUMF is tied directly and only to those involved in the events of 9/11,” whereas the NDAA “has a non-specific definition of ‘covered person’ that reaches beyond those involved in the 9/11 attacks by its very terms.” Second, “the individuals or groups at issue in the AUMF are also more specific than those at issue in § 1021″ of the NDAA; that’s because the AUMF covered those “directly involved in the 9/11 attacks while those in § 1021 [of the NDAA] are specific groups and ‘associated forces’.” Moreover, “the Government has not provided a concrete, cognizable set of organizations or individuals that constitute ‘associated forces,’ lending further indefiniteness to § 1021.” Third, the AUMF is much more specific about how one is guilty of “supporting” the covered Terrorist groups, while the NDAA is incredibly broad and un-specific in that regard, thus leading the court to believe that even legitimate activities could subject a person to indefinite detention.
The court also decisively rejected the argument that President Obama’s signing statement – expressing limits on how he intends to exercise the NDAA’s detention powers — solves any of these problems. That’s because, said the court, the signing statement “does not state that § 1021 of the NDAA will not be applied to otherwise-protected First Amendment speech nor does it give concrete definitions to the vague terms used in the statute.”
The court concluded by taking note of what is indeed the extraordinary nature of her ruling, but explained it this way:
This Court is acutely aware that preliminarily enjoining an act of Congress must be done with great caution. However, it is the responsibility of our judicial system to protect the public from acts of Congress which infringe upon constitutional rights.
I’ve been very hard on the federal judiciary in the past year due to its shameful, craven deference in the post-9/11 world to executive power and, especially, attempts to prosecute Muslims on Terrorism charges. But this is definitely an exception to that trend. This is an extraordinary and encouraging decision. All the usual caveats apply: this is only a preliminary injunction (though the court made it clear that she believes plaintiffs will ultimately prevail). It will certainly be appealed and can be reversed. There are still other authorities (including the AUMF) which the DOJ can use to assert the power of indefinite detention. Nonetheless, this is a rare and significant limit placed on the U.S. Government’s ability to seize ever-greater powers of detention-without-charges, and it is grounded in exactly the right constitutional principles: ones that federal courts and the Executive Branch have been willfully ignoring for the past decade.
UPDATE: I really should mention the rest of the plaintiffs who brought this lawsuit beyond the four well-known ones I named above, because each deserves immense credit for doing this. Alexa O’Brien is an independent journalist who writes for WL Central, regarding WikiLeaks, Guantanamo and other issues, and founded a website to work on America’s corrupted elections, Day of Rage. Kai Wargalla is a British activist who founded Occupy London and has done extensive work in advocating for WikiLeaks. Jennifer Bolen, who along with Hedges spearheaded the organization of this lawsuit, is an activist with Revolution Truth who did substantial work to defeat the NDAA.
Though I knew a fair amount about it as it proceeded, I hadn’t written about this lawsuit before, largely because I did not expect it to succeed; I anticipated that it would be dismissed on “standing” grounds, the favored tactic (along with the State Secrets privilege) for both the Bush and Obama DOJs to persuade federal courts not to even adjudicate constitutional challenges to the War on Terror powers. Serious kudos to all of the plaintiffs and lawyers here who persevered in what I’m certain they knew would be an uphill battle.
When It Looks and Feels Like Totalitarianism… May 4, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Human Rights.
Tags: aclu, civil liberties, domestic insurrection, executive power, human rights, jemima pierre, ndaa, obama administration, ows, patriot act, police state, preventive detention, roger hollander, surveillance state, trespass bill, trespass law
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by BAR editor and columnist Jemima Pierre
The Obama administration has spent the last three years building the infrastructure of a totalitarian police state, that “has surpassed the Bush administration’s attempts to expand executive power by crushing the civil liberties of US citizens.” At the center of the repressive edifice is preventive detention without trial, buttressed by various measures that, effectively, criminalize dissent. Clearly, and methodically, “the US government is preparing for domestic insurrection.”
When It Looks and Feels Like Totalitarianism…
by BAR editor and columnist Jemima Pierre
“The NDAA’S dangerous detention provisions would authorize the president – and all future presidents – to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield.”
George W. Bush would blush. Joseph McCarthy would be proud. And COINTELPRO now seems like child’s play. In only three years,the Obama administration and its enablers have established, legitimized, and normalized a national security state apparatus that removes any doubt that domestic policing is a prelude to a totalitarian police state. This apparatus has surpassed the Bush administration’s attempts to expand executive power by crushing the civil liberties of US citizens. And it has done so boldly, with only a few prominent critics, and without so much as a whimper from so-called leftists.
What we urgently need is a compilation of the various acts, presidential signing statements, domestic surveillance programs, secret military and police operations, censorships, and other administrative measures that affect not only our civil liberties, but also our human rights and human dignity. For now, I will focus on two of the more recent congressionally approved draconian laws passed by the Obama administration.
On New Year’s Eve, 2011, away from the glitter and swoon of the media, Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (or NDAA).The law states that based on suspicion alone, the military can indefinitely detain anyone who is considered a “terrorist” or deemed an accessory to terrorism. This includes US citizens. According to the ACLU, this law codifies “indefinite military detention without charge or trial into law for the first time in American history.” “The NDAA’S dangerous detention provisions,” the ACLU continues, “would authorize the president – and all future presidents – to order the military to pick up and indefinitely imprison people captured anywhere in the world, far from any battlefield.”
“The Obama administration and its enablers have established, legitimized, and normalized a national security state apparatus that removes any doubt that domestic policing is a prelude to a totalitarian police state.”
What is most dangerous about this law, according to its many critics, is its broad language about who can be considered a target. In his column describing why he is suing the Obama administration over NDAA, journalist Chris Hedges points particularly to Section 1031 defining a potential target as a person who is either a member of, or substantially supported, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or “associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.” This also includes “any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.” The law doesn’t define what “associated forces” are, or what “engaging in hostilities” against the US means. And because the definition of a “terrorist” shifts according to political necessity, all of us – all over the world – are potential targets and eventual victims. Historically, we have seen how the US government has labeled “domestic terrorist” any persons or groups, particularly those on the left, who have dared challenge inequality and state oppression (clear examples are the American Indian Movement and the Black Power Movement). Most recently, we have seen the brutal suppression of domestic dissent through the militarized dismantling of Occupy Wall Street encampments – which brings us to the next worrisome law, HR 347.
The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011 or the “Trespass Bill” (HR 347 and its companion Senate bill, S. 1794) was signed into law by Obama on March 9, 2012. This law, according to a Business Insiderarticle, “potentially makes peaceable protest anywhere in the U.S. a federal felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.” What it says, specifically, is that anyone can be charged with a federal felony for “trespassing” on property or grounds that is under Secret Service protection, even if the supposed “trespasser” is not aware that the area is under such protection. One can also be charged if he or she “impede[s] or disrupt[s] the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions.” This law effectively criminalizes any form of protest. This means that any place or event can, at any time and under any circumstance, be designated a “trespass” area and, anyone protesting any event can potentially be arrested. Knowing also that under NDAA, once arrested, a person can be detained indefinitely and extradited if he or she is deemed a threat, should give us all pause.
“Any place or event can, at any time and under any circumstance, be designated a “trespass” area and, anyone protesting any event can potentially be arrested.”
Along with these new laws, there is the recent Executive Order signed by Obama on March 16, 2012: National Defense Resource Preparedness (EO 8248). This order allows the executive branch – through various federal authorities such as the Secretaries of Energy, Health and Human Services, Transportation, Defense, and Commerce – to take control of all food, all energy, all health resources and all transportation resources in the service of “national defense,” even in times of declared peace. It is true that this latest executive order is an update to the one signed by Bill Clinton in 1994. But in the context of the growing number of laws that expand executive and military power to stifle dissent along with the rapidly expanding national security enterprise, we should be wary.
Since the passing of the Patriot Act in 2001 and its reauthorization by Obama last year, we have seen assaults on our dignity, our human rights and ability to protest. These assaults now come from multiple fronts and contain diverse tactics. And they affect us all. We see examples in the local and federal militarized response to the Occupy Wall Street movements, the deployment of drones domestically by city governments, universities, private contractors, and local police (see domestic drone authorization map here), and we see how the Obama administration has waged an all out war against whistleblowers by using the archaic World War I era Espionage Act, prosecuting more people than all other presidents combined.More importantly, there is what the Washington Post last year called the “National Security Enterprise” that depends on “854,000 civil servants, military personnel and private contractors with top-security clearances,” and whose major work is domestic surveillance to curtail dissent. The unprecedented $1.5 billion, almost 1 million square feet National Security Agency data center (or “Spy Center”) that is being built in Utah, is to work both as a bottomless database for all information on all Americans, and as a remote interrogation center.
With all of this, it is clear that, even though it seems to only be concerned with international wars and other misadventures, the US government is preparing for domestic insurrection. And it has done so by unleashing the structures of totalitarianism, as it seeks to regulate our actions through mass surveillance, fear, and threats of repression. (For how else can we understand the recent purchase by the Department of Homeland Security of nearly 500 million rounds of ultra-deadlyhollow-point bullets and 40 caliber ammo, as well as a large number of semi-portable steel checkpoint guardhouses, complete with high-impact bulletproof glass windows and doors?)
And why not? The political order is being shaken, the Western financial infrastructure is collapsing, and empire is imploding. They know it and they are ready.
Jemima Pierre can be reached at BAR1804@gmail.com.
US Congress passes authoritarian anti-protest law March 3, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy, Occupy Wall Street Movement.
Tags: #occupy movement, anti-protest, civil liberties, congress, Criminal Justice, democracy, demonstrations, dhs, first amendment, Freedom of speech, Homeland Security, ndaa, occupy wall street, political protest, roger hollander, tom carter
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By Tom Carter 3 March 2012, World Socialist Web Site, www.wsws,org
A bill passed Monday in the US House of Representatives and Thursday in the Senate would make it a felony—a serious criminal offense punishable by lengthy terms of incarceration—to participate in many forms of protest associated with the Occupy Wall Street protests of last year. Several commentators have dubbed it the “anti-Occupy” law, but its implications are far broader.
The bill—H.R. 347, or the “Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act of 2011”—was passed by unanimous consent in the Senate, while only Ron Paul and two other Republicans voted against the bill in the House of Representatives (the bill passed 388-3). Not a single Democratic politician voted against the bill.
The virtually unanimous passage of H.R. 347 starkly exposes the fact that, despite all the posturing, the Democrats and the Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with the corporate and financial oligarchy, which regarded last year’s popular protests against social inequality with a mixture of fear and hostility.
Among the central provisions of H.R. 347 is a section that would make it a criminal offense to “enter or remain in” an area designated as “restricted.”
The bill defines the areas that qualify as “restricted” in extremely vague and broad terms. Restricted areas can include “a building or grounds where the President or other person protected by the Secret Service is or will be temporarily visiting” and “a building or grounds so restricted in conjunction with an event designated as a special event of national significance.”
The Secret Service provides bodyguards not just to the US president, but to a broad layer of top figures in the political establishment, including presidential candidates and foreign dignitaries.
Even more sinister is the provision regarding events of “national significance.” What circumstances constitute events of “national significance” is left to the unbridled discretion of the Department of Homeland Security. The occasion for virtually any large protest could be designated by the Department of Homeland Security as an event of “national significance,” making any demonstrations in the vicinity illegal.
For certain, included among such events would be the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, which have been classified as National Special Security Events (NSSE), a category created under the Clinton administration. These conventions have been the occasion for protests that have been subjected to ever increasing police restrictions and repression. Under H.R. 347, future protests at such events could be outright criminalized.
The standard punishment under the new law is a fine and up to one year in prison. If a weapon or serious physical injury is involved, the penalty may be increased to up to ten years.
Also criminalized by the bill is conduct “that impedes or disrupts the orderly conduct of Government business or official functions” and “obstructs or impedes ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds.” These provisions, even more so than the provisions creating “restricted areas,” threaten to criminalize a broad range of protest activities that were previously perfectly legal.
In order to appreciate the unprecedented sweep of H.R. 347, it is necessary to consider a few examples:
A wide area around the next G-20 meeting or other global summit could be designated “restricted” by the Secret Service, such that any person who “enters” a that area can be subject to a fine and a year in jail under Section 1752(a)(1) (making it a felony to enter any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority to do so).
Senator Rick Santorum, the ultra-right Republican presidential candidate, enjoys the protection of the Secret Service. Accordingly, a person who shouts “boo!” during a speech by Santorum could be subject to arrest and a year of imprisonment under Section 1752(a)(2) (making it a felony to “engag[e] in disorderly or disruptive conduct in” a restricted area).
Striking government workers who form a picket line near any event of “national significance” can be locked up under Section 1752(a)(3) (making it a crime to imped[e] ingress or egress to or from any restricted building or grounds).
Under the ancien regime in France, steps were taken to ensure that the “unwashed masses” were kept out of sight whenever a carriage containing an important aristocrat or church official was passing through. Similarly, H.R. 347 creates for the US president and other top officials a protest-free bubble or “no-free-speech zone” that follows them wherever they go, making sure the discontented multitude is kept out of the picture.
The Federal Restricted Buildings and Grounds Improvement Act is plainly in violation of the First Amendment to the US Constitution, which was passed in 1791 in the aftermath of the American Revolution. The First Amendment provides: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . . or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” (The arrogance of the Democratic and Republican politicians is staggering—what part of “Congress shall make no law” do they not understand?)
H.R. 347 comes on the heels of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which was signed by President Obama into law on December 31, 2011. The NDAA gives the president the power to order the assassination and incarceration of any person—including a US citizen—anywhere in the world without charge or trial.
The passage of H.R. 347 has been the subject of a virtual blackout in the media. In light of the unprecedented nature of the bill, which would effectively overturn the First Amendment, this blackout cannot be innocent. The media silence therefore represents a conscious effort to keep the American population in the dark as to the government’s efforts to eviscerate the Bill of Rights.
The bill would vastly expand a previous law making it misdemeanor to trespass on the grounds of the White House. An earlier version of the bill would have made it a felony just to “conspire” to engage in any of the conduct described above. The bill now awaits President Obama’s signature before it becomes the law of the land.
What lies behind the unprecedented attack underway on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights is a growing understanding in the ruling class that the protests that took place around the world against social inequality in 2011 will inevitably re-emerge in more and more powerful forms in 2012 and beyond, as austerity measures and the crashing economy make the conditions of life more and more impossible for the working class. The virtually unanimous support in Congress H.R. 347, among Democrats as well as Republicans, reflects overriding sentiment within the ruling establishment for scrapping all existing democratic rights in favor of dictatorial methods of rule.
This sentiment was most directly expressed this week by Wyoming Republican legislator David Miller, who recently introduced a bill into the state legislature that would give the state the power, in an “emergency,” to create its own standing army through conscription, print its own currency, acquire military aircraft, suspend the legislature, and establish martial law. “Things happen quickly sometimes—look at Libya, look at Egypt, look at those situations,” Miller told the Star-Tribune in Casper, Wyoming. Repeating arguments employed by every military dictatorship over the past century, Miller declared, “We wouldn’t have time to meet as a Legislature or even in special session to do anything to respond.” Miller’s so-called “doomsday law” was defeated in the Wyoming legislature Tuesday by the narrow margin of 30-27.
The NDAA: a clear and present danger to American liberty March 3, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Criminal Justice, Democracy.
Tags: civil liberties, Civil Rights, democracy, due process, Guantanamo, habeas corpus, naomi wolf, national defense, ndaa, perpetual incarceration, roger hollander, torture
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Roger’s note: THIS IS TRULY FRIGHTENING.
The US is sleepwalking into becoming a police state, where, like a pre-Magna Carta monarch, the president can lock up anyone
Yes, the worst things you may have heard about the National Defense Authorization Act, which has formally ended 254 years of democracy in the United States of America, and driven a stake through the heart of the bill of rights, are all really true. The act passed with large margins in both the House and the Senate on the last day of last year – even as tens of thousands of Americans were frantically begging their representatives to secure Americans’ habeas corpus rights in the final version.
It does indeed – contrary to the many flatout-false form letters I have seen that both senators and representatives sent to their constituents, misleading them about the fact that the NDAA destroys their due process rights. Under the act, anyone can be described as a ‘belligerent”. As the New American website puts it,
“[S]ubsequent clauses (Section 1022, for example) unlawfully give the president the absolute and unquestionable authority to deploy the armed forces of the United States to apprehend and to indefinitely detain those suspected of threatening the security of the ‘homeland’. In the language of this legislation, these people are called ‘covered persons’.
“The universe of potential ‘covered persons’ includes every citizen of the United States of America. Any American could one day find himself or herself branded a ‘belligerent’ and thus subject to the complete confiscation of his or her constitutional civil liberties and nearly never-ending incarceration in a military prison.”
And with a new bill now being introduced to make it a crime to protest in a way that disrupts any government process – or to get close to anyone with secret service protection – the push to legally lock down the United Police States is in full force.
Overstated? Let’s be clear: the NDAA grants the president the power to kidnap any American anywhere in the United States and hold him or her in prison forever without trial. The president’s own signing statement, incredibly, confirmed that he had that power. As I have been warning since 2006: there is not a country on the planet that you can name that has ever set in place a system of torture, and of detention without trial, for an “other”, supposedly external threat that did not end up using it pretty quickly on its own citizens.
And Guantánamo has indeed come home: Guantánamo is in our front yards now and our workplaces; it did not even take much more than half a decade. On 1 March, the NDAA will go into effect – if a judicial hearing scheduled for this week does not block it – and no one in America, no US citizen, will be safe from being detained indefinitely – in effect, “disappeared.”.
As former Reagan official, now Ron Paul supporter, Bruce Fein points out, on 1 March, we won’t just lose the bill of rights; we will lose due process altogether. We will be back at the place where we were, in terms of legal tradition, before the signing of the Magna Carta – when kings could throw people in prison at will, to rot there forever. If we had cared more about what was being done to brown people with Muslim names on a Cuban coastline, and raised our voices louder against their having been held without charge for years, or against their being tried in kangaroo courts called military tribunals, we might now be safer now from a new law mandating for us also the threat of abduction and fear of perpetual incarceration.
We didn’t care, or we didn’t care enough – and here we are. We acclimated, we got distracted, the Oscars were coming up … but the fake “battlefield” was brought home to us, now real enough. Though it is not “we” versus Muslims in this conflict; it is our very own government versus “us”. As one of my Facebook community members remarked bitterly, of our House representatives, our Senate leaders and our president, “They hate our freedoms.”
The NDAA is, in the words of Shahid Buttar of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, “the worst threat to civil liberties since COINTELPRO. It gives the government the power to presume guilt rather than innocence, and indefinitely imprison anyone accused of a ‘belligerent act’ or terror-related offense without trial.” He points out that it gives future presidents the power to arrest their political critics. That may even be understating things: it is actually, in my view, the worst threat to civil liberty in the US since habeas corpus was last suspended, during the American civil war.
On a conference call for media last Friday, hosted by the cross-partisan BORDC (which now includes the 40,000 members of the American Freedom Campaign, which we had co-founded as a response to the warning in 2007 that America was facing a “fascist shift”) and the right-leaning Tenth Amendment Foundation, we were all speaking the same language of fear for our freedom, even though our perspectives spanned the political spectrum. As the Tenth Amendment Foundation put it, we are a family with diverse views – and families know when it is time to put aside their differences. If there were ever a time to do so, it is now. This grassroots effort is pushing hard in many places. Protests that included libertarians, progressives, Tea Party members and Occupy participants have been held nationwide in recent weeks. State legislators in Virginia, Tennessee, and Washington have also introduced bills to prevent state agencies from aiding in any detention operations that might be authorized by the NDAA. In other words, they are educating sheriffs and police to refuse to comply with the NDAA’s orders. This presents an Orwellian or 1776-type scenario, depending upon your point of view, in which the federal government, or even the president, might issue orders to detain US citizens – which local sheriffs and police would be legally bound to resist.
What will happen next? I wrote recently that the US is experiencing something like a civil war, with only one side at this point – the corporatist side – aggressing. This grassroots, local-leader movement represents a defensive strategy in what is being now tacitly recognized as unprovoked aggression against an entire nation, and an entire people. (Here I should say, mindful of the warning issued to me by NYPD, which arrested me, to avoid saying anything that could be construed as “incitement to riot” and that I believe in nonviolent resistance.)
The local resistance to the police state goes further: midwestern cities, such as Chicago and Minneapolis, are considering “torture-free city” resolutions that would prohibit the torture which civil libertarians see as likely under a military detention regime expanded by the NDAA. (Bradley Manning’s initial treatment in solitary confinement, for instance, met some Red Cross definitions of torture.)
But I am far more scared than hopeful, because nothing about the NDAA’s legislative passage worked as democracy is supposed to work. Senator Dianne Feinstein, for instance, in spite of her proposed (defeated) amendment that could have defended due process more completely, has nonetheless not fought to repeal the law – even though her constituents in California would, no doubt, overwhelmingly support her in doing so. Huge majorities passed this bill into law – despite the fact that Americans across the spectrum were appalled and besieging their legislators. And this president nailed it to the table – even though his own constituency is up in arms about it.
History shows that at this point, there isn’t much time to mount a defense: once the first few arrests take place, people go quiet. There is only one solution: organize votes loudly and publicly to defeat every single signer of this bill in November’s general election. Then, once we have our Republic back and the rule of law, we can deal with the actual treason that this law represents.
Only Ron Paul Warns Of Emerging Fascist State February 27, 2012Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Foreign Policy, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan, Right Wing, War.
Tags: fascism, foreign policy, indifinite detention, militarism, military detentiion, ndaa, patriot act, presidential power, republicans, right wing, roger hollander, ron paul, sherwood ross, tea party, war on drugs
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Roger’s note: Please don’t get me wrong, I am no fan or supporter of Ron Paul with his Social Darwinian Ayn Rand Libertarian philosophy that makes a fetish of the sacred concept of individual liberty (as if it were possible to separate the individual from the community). Nevertheless, Paul’s positions on war and empire coincide with that of the left in general and the Occupy Movement in specific. It is also easy to see why his persona, which reeks of sincerity and honest indignation, appeals to youthful idealism. His association with the extreme right and some alleged policy statements that sound like white supremacism, are disturbing. But his position of militarism and fascism, as outlined in the article below, begs the question of why he is a part of the Republican Party in the first place; and why, if he sees the connection between authoritarian government and mega corporations, his domestic policy coincides with the interests of those same corporations.
Republican Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate of either party to tell the truth that America is “slipping into a fascist system.”
That is unquestionably the critical issue of the hour for the United States of America and one that Paul’s Republican fellow candidates and their Democratic opponent President Obama choose to ignore.
Hand in hand with this existential crisis is that a nation that goes fascist at home invariably becomes a tyrant abroad. Thus, the Congressman from Galveston is right on the mark when he calls for the predatory U.S. to pull its troops out of the Middle East and Africa and close down its foreign bases. The U.S., indisputably, with its 1,000 military bases at home and a thousand more abroad, is now the most awesome military power ever.
“We’ve slipped away from a true Republic,” Paul told a cheering crowd of followers at a Feb. 18th rally in Kansas City, Mo. “Now we’re slipping into a fascist system where it’s a combination of government and big business and authoritarian rule and the suppression of the individual rights of each and every American citizen.”
According to the Associated Press reporter who covered his speech, “Paul repeatedly denounced President Barack Obama’s recent enactment of a law requiring military custody of anyone suspected to be associated with al-Qaida and involved in planning an attack on the U.S.” (Note: Paul is a consistent defender of individual rights. He also opposed that previous horrific piece of totalitarian legislation mislabeled as the Patriot Act.)
Ralph Munyan, a Republican committeeman who attended the Paul rally, told AP he agreed with Paul’s warnings of a “fascist system” and Paul’s pledges to end the War on Drugs as well as U.S. involvement in wars overseas. By contrast, candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich are all hawks spoiling for a fight with Iran and who leave peace-minded Republican voters no one to turn to save Paul.
An article on Paul published in the Feb. 27th issue of “The New Yorker” quotes him as saying, “We thought Obama might help us and get us out of some of these messes. But now we’re in more countries than ever—we can’t even keep track of how many places our troops are!”
In the evaluation of “New Yorker” reporter Kelefa Sanneh, “So far, the Paul campaign is neither a groundswell nor a failure. He is slowly collecting delegates…” which could impact the final selection of the nominee even if they do not have the strength to nominate Paul.
Overall, Paul’s message appears to be “doing better, state by state, than he did in 2008,” Sanneh writes, but “he has conspicuously failed to establish himself as this year’s Tea Party candidate.”
“People don’t think of Paul as a top-tier Republican candidate partly because they think of him as a libertarian: anti-tax and anti-bailout, but also antiwar, anti-empire, and, sometimes, anti-Republican,” Sanneh continues.
To date, Paul’s shining contribution to the 2012 campaign is educational—even if the major networks and cable powerhouse Fox News downplay his candidacy in their primary night election coverage. Some of what he says gets through to the public, particularly youthful voters. On the grave issues of totalitarianism at home and tyranny abroad, Paul is the last truth-teller. As such, Paul is a dove fighting for survival among a flock of hawks, and his chances are not bright.
(Sherwood Ross heads a public relations firm for political candidates who favor peace and prosperity.)
The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.