March 20, 2010
Something Wicked This Way Comes

Well, frumps, I’ve been at this for a year now, and I must admit that writing the Frump Gazette has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my long and varied life. It has forced me to focus on the world around me in new and different ways; it has opened my eyes, ears and heart to things that slid right on by during my hustle and bustle years of working and parenting.

Best of all, I have met some truly remarkable people that I might not have otherwise met. Despite being drawn to troubling subjects, the intelligent, thought-provoking commentary and good humor of my readers have continually reassured me that all is far from lost. I have met with some modest blogging success and have expanded my audience with spots on Alternet’s “Speakeasy,” Salon.com’s Open Salon and Jerome Doolittle’s Bad Attitudes.

For a while now, I have planned to take an “anniversary” week off so that my granddaughter can teach me how to play, again. But before I do that, I would like to leave you with something to chew on that has the potential to put an end to the freewheeling forum that has become known as the Blogosphere as well as any other venue where dissent and activism currently flourish.

On March 4, 2010, Sen. John McCain introduced new legislation that he has written called the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Leiberman making it “bipartisan” — after a fashion…


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The Horror

Assessing McCain’s bill in an article for Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald noted that:

“It’s probably the single most extremist, tyrannical and dangerous bill introduced in the Senate in the last several decades, far beyond the horrific, habeas-abolishing Military Commissions Act. It literally empowers the President to imprison anyone he wants in his sole discretion by simply decreeing them a Terrorist suspect — including American citizens arrested on U.S. soil. The bill requires that all such individuals be placed in military custody, and explicitly says that they ‘may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,’ which everyone expects to last decades, at least. It’s basically a bill designed to formally authorize what the Bush administration did to American citizen Jose Padilla — arrest him on U.S. soil and imprison him for years in military custody with no charges.”

For those of you who may not be familiar with Glenn Greenwald, he is a constitutional expert, a lawyer, a columnist, a blogger, and author. He worked as a constitutional and civil rights litigator prior to becoming a contributor to Salon.com, where he focuses on political and legal topics. He has also contributed to other major newspapers and political news magazines, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, The National Interest, and In These Times.

His commentaries “on surveillance issues and separation of powers” have been cited in The New York Times, in The Washington Post, in United States Senate floor debates, and in House “official … reports on executive power abuses.”

In short, when Glenn Greenwald is alarmed, we should all be paying attention.


The (Possible) Law of the Land

If you would like to read the bill for yourself, you’ll find it here. It’s a short read (12 pages); Republicans seem to have become great fans of brevity in their legislative endeavors lately.

Basically, the bill would establish a policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are suspected of hostilities against the United States. Such detainees would be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value by High Value Intelligence Teams and pointedly would not be provided with a Miranda warning.

Here’s a relevant bit taken directly from the bill:

“The bill asks the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a “high-value detainee” if he/she: (1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities within the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad; (2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities; (3) potential intelligence value; (4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate. The President must submit the regulations and guidance to the appropriate committees of Congress no later than 60 days after enactment.”

“To the extent possible, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must make a preliminary determination whether the detainee is an unprivileged enemy belligerent within 48 hours of taking detainee into custody.”

“The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must submit its determination to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General after consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General make a final determination and report the determination to the President and the appropriate committees of Congress. In the case of any disagreement between the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, the President will make the determination.”

Things that “go bump in the night” about these passages:

* We are no longer referring to these “targets” as “aliens;” American citizens like you and I (and José Padilla) could now be (officially) pulled off the street and detained indefinitely

* The bill calls for the President to decide what behavior will label a person a “high-value detainee.” The bill then makes suggestions about possible criteria but ends with “or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate.” I have to wonder what a President Cheney or a President Palin might consider appropriate criteria for “detainment.” Perhaps anyone who might have called for the indictment of Bush/Cheney, on war crimes, would suddenly become a “high value detainee”?

* Once the criteria have been set, the Kangaroo Court is in session and the Orwellian-sounding High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team have “48 hours” to deliver a verdict. So — based on 48 hours of extra-judicial deliberation by a group who make their living being part of an “interrogation team” you, or someone you know, could be “disappeared” for quite a long time. Period.

* That “interrogation team” verdict is handed over to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General who make the Final Determination and hand it over to the President (who DOES NOT have a say in that determination unless DoD and DoJ bring in a split decision).

Furthermore, per the bill, such detainees can be held until the end of terrorist hostilities against the US and its Coalition allies – which, as we all know, could be a very, very long time. And wouldn’t this act be a great tool for anyone with a feverish imagination and an “enemies list”? In our overheated national security environment it shouldn’t be too awfully hard to make, say – any regular subway commuter into a terrorist suspect.
Let Me Count the Ways…

This is not one of those hair-splitting constitutional debates that go on in some rarefied legal ether. This bill is a down and dirty assault on the Constitution that has so much glaringly wrong with it that any American high-schooler could shoot it full of holes in five minutes. Here are some of its major constitutional transgressions:

Fourth Amendment 4 — Search and Seizure:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fifth Amendment 5 — Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger.

Sixth Amendment — Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

Eighth Amendment — Cruel and Unusual Punishment:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Fourteenth Amendment — Citizenship Rights:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.



WTF?

Keeping in mind that this bill was written by a United States Senator, who is sworn to uphold the Constitution, and co-sponsored by ten others (see list of co-sponsors below) – it is little wonder that the American public is thoroughly disgusted with Congress’s performance of late (approval rating is consistently around 20%). If this bill had been introduced on April 1st, I would have known what to make of it. As it stands, I have to assume that Sen. McCain’s loss of the Presidential election, the imminent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and, now, the very real threat to even holding on to his Senate seat, has completely unhinged the man.

Here is the promised list of Co-Sponsors of the Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010:

Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA]
Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R, GA]
Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK]
Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL]
Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT]
Sen. Jefferson Sessions [R, AL]
Sen. John Thune [R, SD]
Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]

These are, of course, many of the usual subjects; but I find it especially chilling to find Sen. Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on that list.

Now, it’s only fair to let McCain speak for himself and, to that end, here’s a link to his official letter introducing his bill to the President. Unfortunately, McCain’s rambling, finger-pointing screed doesn’t go very far in elucidating good motives for establishing a police state.

There are a number of political ways to look at this development — it could be simply a Republican effort to introduce legislation that provides an opportunity for the administration to appear wimpy by shooting it down. Who’s paying attention? Sen. McCain is just being a stand-up, ex-military patriot trying to make Americans safer but the radical Obama administration shots down anything that smacks of traditional values — right?

McCain, whose Senate seat seems to be imperiled in November, may believe that his bill will appeal to a gun-toting, xenophobic, kick-ass contingent of Arizona voters (centrism sure doesn’t seem to be working).

It could be that he believes the McClatchy-Ipsos poll, from January 2010, that found that 51 percent of Americans agree with this statement: ”it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.”

It could be part of the GOP’s general accretion of scary material that keeps Americans wary and the defense dollars flowing until the Republican Party rises from the ashes and saves us from ourselves, once again.

Or it could just be what we’re coming to — a corporatist, militarist global concern that needs to sweep stodgy American values out of its way. The precedent for using US military inside the US occurred in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) has run exercises called “Vigilant Shield” to prepare, prevent and respond to any number of national crises that would call for the use of the military inside the United States. Vigilant Shield 2008 builds a scenario of a domestic disaster in the US (terrorist attack or natural disaster). It posits the domestic use of the US military including a special role for the US Air Force.


Can’t Happen Here, Right?

In case anyone out there is comforted that President Obama would never sign that bill, don’t be sure. Here’s a clip from Rachel Maddow last spring that puts the lie to that false security:




I’m sure that Sen. McCain, like Liz Cheney, is just obsessed with Keeping America Safe … so why do I feel so very afraid?

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Posted by Frumpzilla at March 20, 2010 11:30 AM
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Comments

Don't worry. Only people who deserve it end up in a "Konzentrationslager". Ask any old or new Nazi.

Posted by: Peter on March 20, 2010 1:15 PM

Come on, people. I know you don't think much of McCain and Lieberman, but do you seriously think a Jew and an ex-POW intend to set up prison camps? Grow up.

Posted by: Nugatory on March 20, 2010 3:45 PM

You obviously haven't been paying attention, Nugatory.

It's good news for Republicans no matter which way it goes. If the bill fails, they can, as you point out, shriek that Democrats are "soft on terra, but if it passes they get to shriek about how Democrats are going to round people up and put them in camps.

It's really a win-win for the GOP.

Posted by: karen marie on March 20, 2010 6:20 PM

The aptly named Nugatory appears to live in a world where, empiricism be damned, people's experiences and cultural heritage guide their intentions in a positive manner.

Posted by: Jim on March 21, 2010 9:21 AM

Nugatory, the nation is riddled with prison camps. We've got more than the Soviety Union had in their aptly named Gulag Archipeligo. What makes you think that they WON'T be setting up ideologically based prison camps? Neither one, McCain or Lieberman, is a liberal and why in the world would we need more prison camps other than to house the liberals and others, at least temporarily, whose ideology that the country can't stand before we send them off to work as pedicab pullers to work for the folks who live in the nations that own this country?

Posted by: Buck on March 21, 2010 11:20 PM

It's a real leap from grandstanding security state legislation to ideologically-based incarceration. The purpose of the legislation is to threaten NGOs and activist groups, mainly by scaring their sympathizers and financial supporters.

Posted by: Jim on March 22, 2010 7:34 AM

I find John McCain and Joe Lieberman to be terrorist suspects.

Posted by: Joyful on March 22, 2010 10:56 PM
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