Due Process

Stand with Rand for the Bill of Rights: Defend our liberties or watch them slip away

Rand Paul
(Photo credit: CSPAN)

The nomination of David Barron to the First Circuit Court of Appeals is not about transparency, but rather the right to due process guaranteed in the Constitution, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) explained this morning.

“I rise today to oppose the nomination of anyone who would argue that the President has the power to kill American citizens not involved in combat,” said Paul in a 31-minute speech on the Senate floor. “I rise today to say that there is no legal precedent for killing American citizens not directly involved in combat and that any nominee who rubber stamps and grants such power to a President is not worthy of being placed one step away from the Supreme Court.”

The Obama administration has indicated that it will make public the controversial memo written by Barron that gave President Barack Obama the legal justification for the assassination of American citizens accused of terrorist ties, including those who are not involved in combat. Paul, however, explained that the issue the Senate must face isn’t transparency, but the substance of the memo.

“It isn’t about seeing the Barron memos. It is about what they say. I believe the Barron memos disrespect the Bill of Rights,” Paul explained. “The nomination before us, though, is about killing American citizens NOT engaged in combat,” The nominee, David Barron, has written a defense of drone executions of American citizens NOT directly involved in combat.”

Congress’ 10 Worst Infringements on Personal Liberty

The focus in on the NSA controversy and ObamaCare got us thinking — what are the worst laws passed by Congress? So we did some thinking and came up with some of the most egregious laws to be passed by Congress. The list was so large that we had to cut it into two posts one on personal liberty and the other dealing with economic liberty, which will be posted next week.

The following list isn’t in any particular order, so don’t take one bad law being ahead of another as anything significant.

Espionage Act (1917)

The Espionage Act, passed nearly two months after the United States entered World War I, has had startling ramifications for free speech in the United States. Shortly after becoming law, Eugene Debs, a socialist and labor leader, was arrested and convicted for giving a speech that “interfered” with the recruitment of soldiers for the war effort. The law primarily used for prosecution of alleged spies and whistleblowers working in the government. For example, the government tried to prosecute Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame under the act, but the jury declared a mistrial. NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has also been charged under the Espionage Act. Both Ellsberg and Snownden’s disclosures were embarrassments for the government.

Indian Removal Act (1830)

Rand Paul Issues Second Letter Asking the FBI About its Drone Use

On March 6th, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) held a 13-hour long filibuster to rally against this administration’s threatening drone policy concerning the targeting of American citizens overseas. He also used the time he had to ask broader questions dealing with the potential targeting of Americans on U.S. soil, which weren’t fully answered.

On June 20th, Sen. Paul requested more answers concerning the current U.S. drone use. Unfortunately, the Senator did not obtain any responses to his first letter, which was directed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to the official release, Sen. Paul questioned the FBI Director Robert Mueller on whether the agency is actively using drones without governance policy, which would be the only way to assure the lawful use of the unmanned devices is authorized.

With the first letter, Sen. Paul asked the FBI for details on the period in which drones have been in use by the agency, and accurate information on whether these devices are armed.

Sen. Paul has now issued a second letter since the FBI failed to provide answers to his questions after Robert Mueller testified before Congress on June 19th claiming that the FBI does operate done aircrafts.

NDAA Passes House, Indefinite Detention Still in Statute

NDAA

While the nation was fully focused on the NSA scandals and Edward Snowden, Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014. Republicans who voted no on H. R. 1960, the National Defense Authorization Act of 2014, included Rep. Justin Amash (MI-03),and Rep. Thomas Massie (KY-04).

Out of the nearly 200 NDAA amendments introduced to the House for voting, only one could have prevented the mandatory military custody of an American citizen without charge or trial: the Smith-Gibson Amendment would eliminate the indefinite military detention of any person taken into custody under the authority of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). This amendment failed by receiving 200 ayes and 226 nays. Out of the 226 votes in opposition to this article, 213 came from Republican congressmen.

Through the NDAA, the U.S. Congress determines how much of the budget can be dedicated to military spending. With the passing of the NDAA of 2014, Congress kept policies that have been in effect since the Bush administration without challenging the request for $614 million required for military construction and civilian infrastructure projects for Guam.

The Perpetual Battle for Natural Rights

With all the scandals today – namely, at the IRS, AP, and NSA – many believe our government’s actions are violating our natural rights: mostly, our freedoms of speech, press, due process, and privacy. These “natural rights” are fundamental basic human rights, not based on man-made positive law. Many of these rights were codified by our founders in the Bill of Rights… but not without tumult.

There are those today - even within the liberty movement - willing to compromise on many issues that would infringe on the natural rights of others, in both domestic and foreign policy. I think they are wrong. In this brief history of how our Bill of Rights came about, I encourage you to look for parallels between today’s struggles and our country’s founding.

A Constitution Without Rights

John Locke, regarded as the Father of Classical Liberalism, grounded the premise for his 1690 Second Treatise of Government on the idea of natural rights. This idea, while revolutionary at the time, provided a template for subsequent political theory. Merging Locke’s idea with the British Bill of Rights of 1689, George Mason, a member of the Virginia delegation, penned the Virginia Declaration of Rights in May of 1776 - preceding both the Virginia State Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. In its Article 1, he penned these words:

Holder’s Drone Memo: More Questions Than Answers

In advance of the President’s counterterrorism speech today at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C. – where it’s anticipated he will lay out new restrictions for America’s drone programs - Attorney General Eric Holder released a 5-page memo disclosing that, since 2009, America has assassinated four of its own citizens in “counterterrorism operations” - more specifically, via drone strike.

Unfortunately, the memo’s admissions create more questions than answers.

1) The memo asserts that targeting and killing of citizens can only happen outside the U.S., tacitly readdressing the concerns Senator Rand Paul addressed in his 13 hour filibuster. But the right to due process is not contingent on geography; like it or not, these rights extend to citizens overseas. The fundamental assertion in the memo is, as Spencer Ackerman points out, that “Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaeda without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.”

Big Brother Government Says “Trust Me”

Big Brother Obama

We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.” — George Orwell, 1984

On May 5th, speaking at Ohio State University, Barack Obama lamented that “Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems. Some of these same voices also do their best to gum up the works. They’ll warn that tyranny always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because what they suggest is that our brave, and creative, and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.”

Obama has it exactly wrong. It is not that our experiment in self-rule is a sham, or that it can’t be trusted, it is that the experiment has been undermined by the growing power of government in our lives, the very danger of which the Founding Fathers warned us. James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution” declared that “The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.” Obama tries to convince us of just the opposite; namely, that we should place our trust in a benevolent government which will take care of us, and all we have to do is give up a little freedom.

After Boston, Senators Aim to Deny Your Rights

In a statement released via Facebook, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) made the case for (1) denying the Miranda rights of the Boston marathon bomber and (2) to hold him without trial as an enemy combatant, regardless of his status as a US citizen.

“Nonsense!” you may say, “They don’t want to deny my rights, just those of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.” While this Dzhokhar guy is truly a first class piece of crap, selectively denying the rights of one US citizen “just because two Senators say so” is an affront to the liberties we all enjoy.

The statement, posted on Senator Graham’s Facebook page, reads in full (with emphasis added in bold):

Just put out this statement with John McCain about the suspect captured in Boston and whether they should be held as an enemy combatant.

“We truly appreciate the hard work and dedication of our law enforcement and intelligence communities.

“It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city. The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans.

Parsing AG Holder on Domestic Targeted Killing

Written by Julian Sanchez, a research fellow at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.

As I wrote on Thursday, I’m not really losing sleep over the prospect of domestic targeted killing, mostly because it seems as though it would be so manifestly politically radioactive even within the intelligence community that I doubt it could be done secretly, and would almost certainly provoke a constitutional crisis if it became public. That said, as Marcy Wheeler notes, if we look closely at the precise wording of Attorney General Eric Holder’s response to Sen. Rand Paul disavowing any such presidential prerogative, it’s actually phrased in a way that seems calculated to preserve a fair amount of wiggle room:

It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional question. “Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?” The answer to that question is no.

Lindsey Graham is Ignoring the Constitution in Favor of Party Lines

Lindsey Graham

Lindsey Graham has declared war on the Constitution (on the same day Kim Jong Un declared war on his enemies… hmm…). What’s especially funny is that he couldn’t have chosen a less popular time to do so, as the Constitution — courtesy of #StandwithRand — is trending. With overwhelming support for Rand Paul’s filibuster coming from conservatives, libertarians, and even many Democrats; Graham, joined by John McCain, has decided that the possibility of the government killing Americans on American soil without due process is a non-issue.

Graham told POLITICO:

“I do mind our party taking a position completely different than we had with President Bush. I didn’t hear any of these people say anything during the Bush administration. Where were they? I just think it’s politics. I think it’s creating a straw man, creating a situation that doesn’t exist.”

First of all, let’s look at the issue of droning under President Bush. Not once did Senator Paul praise President Bush during his filibuster. Unlike his colleague, Senator Graham, Paul is able to look at an issue based on constitutionality instead of on which political party is at stake. If Senator Graham cared to remember those “good old days”, he might remember the huge anti-war movement that arose during Bush’s War on Terror. Much of that movement was directed at tactics such as waterboarding and use of drones, but the movement was against a Republican president. As a party-line opportunist, I guess it’s not all that surprising that there’s a bit of a memory gap for the senator.


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