Constitutional rights and terrorism
Posted by patriotslog
Do terrorists deserve the protection which the citizens of the United States enjoy due to our constitutional rights? That question spawned an in intriguing debate in congress this week, as the senate passed a $662 billion defense bill. In itself the bill cuts defense spending by $43 billion from last year, as well as falling cutting $27 billion from the amount requested by President Obama for defense. The peculiar thing about this bill is not that it cut defense spending by six and a half percent, but that it attempted to address the matter of detaining and holding terrorists, and failed to do so. The question at the core of the debate was how to handle terrorists arrested on U.S. soil, and particularly those who are citizens. Can they be held indefinitely? Should the arrest and detention be handled by law enforcement, or the military? Do they deserve the right to an attorney and a criminal trial? All of these questions came up, and none were answered by this election wary senate.
A decade ago, after the 9/11 attacks, congress overwhelmingly passed executive authority to President Bush empowering the military to detain indefinitely anyone affiliated with the September 11 attacks, any member of Al Qaeda, or any of its affiliates, with no exception for American citizens. It was this lack of exemption for American citizens which ignited the debate in the senate about language in the bill. Each side made compelling arguments for their case, both pointing to the 2004 Supreme Court decision of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld to support their opinion. Those supporting the detention of Americans suspected of terrorism pointed out that Justice Sandra Day O’Connor stated in the case that “there is no bar to this nation’s holding one of its own citizens as an enemy combatant.” those who feel Americans should always be protected by their rights, as well as enemies arrested on domestic soil highlighted another of O’Connor’s statements which specifies that detention is authorized for “a United States citizen captured in a foreign combat zone” (emphasis added). On the other hand, in 1942 the Supreme Court upheld the capture and execution of German saboteurs who had been captured on American soil; one of whom was a citizen of the United States. The law is unclear what the rights of those captured on American soil are. For this reason the Bush administration created the Guantanamo bay detention facility, so that they can hold captured enemies combatants under the custody of the military without having to grant them the rights which come from being on American soil in the justice system. This bill passed by the Senate does give the military authority to arrest and detain those suspected of terrorism indefinitely without having a trial; a vote proposed by senate intelligence committee chairman Dianne Feinstein (Dem, CA) to exempt Americans from this military provision was defeated 55-45, leaving the debate over whether citizens were included in the language unclear. A vote was passed at a count of 99-1 to leave the existing laws concerning the detention of American citizens UN touched; those laws are, as previously shown, foggy at best. Therefore, not wanting to risk any re-election bids (1/3 of the senate is elected during each national election) the senate did nothing to clarify or settle the debate.
Patriotslog finds it ironic at best that this debate is even relevant. For those born in the United States, citizenship is not a choice, it is a literal birth right; conversely, joining a terrorist or terrorist affiliated organization is a choice; a choice which clearly states that an individual has no respect or regard for the constitution. There is no reason why those who have made the conscious decision to fight against the human rights of the people should be protected by the very document t which guarantees our citizens those rights. Ironic is, again, the most polite word which can be used to describe a scenario in which a crazed member of a terrorist organization fights against the basic American rights of free speech, free practice of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, trial by jury, the right to an attorney, and equality for women and minorities, to then turn around and use those rights in their defense if captured. Terrorist organizations undoubtedly use this irony in their recruitment of solders, emphasizing the weakness of the American justice system to execute enemies the way a terrorist would execute them without as an afterthought. The fact that a man in prison for terrorism can even file a law suit naming the President or Secretary of Defense as a defendant sounds more like it belongs in a standup comedy skit than a constitutional law book, much less have those cases ascend all the way to the Supreme Court.
Article III section 3 of the United States Constitution states, “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.” By very definition, terrorism is treason, and therefore susceptible to capital punishment if convicted in criminal court. Because treason in wartimes typically consists of two warring nations, and a conventional enemy, patriotslog feels that terrorist organizations deserve a separate classification because they are not conventional enemies. Terrorists prioritize the slaughter of innocent civilians, then use women and children as body shields, thereby exploiting the United States dignity in battle; treasonable terrorism–wherein a United States citizen commits treason by becoming a terrorist–is a grosser form of treason. Because the goal of terrorism is to murder innocent civilians and commit mass genocide of Americans and other western nations, the punishment for treasonable
terrorism should therefore be more encompassing than that of treason alone. Traditional treason is not aimed at committing war crimes and crimes against humanity the way treasonable terrorism is. For this reason the two need to be distinguished, and carry consequences accordingly. Many people were frightened, and some even appalled when President Obama ordered a military strike on the American born terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been a valuable recruiting tool for the Al Qaeda organization among English speaking peoples. Presidential candidate and Congressman Ron Paul (rep. TX) went as far as saying President Obama could be impeached for “assassinating” an American citizen. While nobody seriously sees a problem with an obvious public enemy and treasonable terrorist being executed, the point still stands that the President used the military to kill a citizen. If that power were left unchecked, as I am sure congressman Paul was implying, there could certainly be huge political repercussions. However, the question must be addressed; did Anwar al-Awlaki really deserve constitutional protection? Was he really any less of a threat than a cornered, cowering, diminished, and allegedly pornographically addicted Osama bin laden? Of course not, both were terrorists, both had major impacts on Al Qaeda organization, and both threats needed to be eliminated. So why should Anwar al-Awlaki be granted constitutional protection simply because he was born here if he is in the same class as bin laden? He absolutely should not.
Our constitution cannot, for the good of our nation, protect its enemies. Terrorists, particularly treasonable terrorists never deserve constitutional protection, or Miranda rights. Military custody and trial is the limit of their privileges–far more than any terrorist of Al Qaeda ever granted an American. So the question remains; how do we allow for this treatment of treasonable terrorists without the risk of Gestapo-type rule over American citizens. The answer could be to put citizens in charge of the ruling. The President of the United States should be given the authority to compose a list of non-sovereign organizations which are enemies to the United States; this would include those terrorist organizations which have attacked the United States in any way, or those who intend to and have the capability to do so. Such organizations could include Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Al Hamas, and even some of the drug cartels which terrorize American citizens. Moreover, the senate, with a 2/3 vote could override the President, and take an organization off the list if need be. If the FBI, CIA, military, White House, NSA, or justice department has any evidence that an American citizen is guilty of treasonable terrorism in association with one of the organizations on the list compiled by the President, let them present that evidence to a civilian grand jury. If the civilians of this nation can see the clear danger and threat of that citizen (as they most likely would have in the case of Al-Awlaki) they can place that citizen on the treasonable terrorist list. Each decision and the entire list must always be public, assuming this list would be small due to the fact that few Americans would drop to such levels, the news would cover the press release of the individual placed on the list, during which press release the evidence would also be made public. Once on this list a citizen has 21 days to contact authorities and inform them of intent to defend themselves in criminal court via trial by jury. After the 21 day period expires the citizen then becomes a military target to be eliminated as Al-Awlaki was; however, if the citizen turns themself in, or contacts authorities, they can still have a trial by jury to remove themselves from the list if they turn themselves in before being arrested by the military. Once arrested by the military the best they can do is a military tribunal.
Furthermore, after the 21 day period has expired, the citizenship of that person is revoked, and that person is no longer granted Constitutional rights unless their name is struck from the list. If this were to be the case, citizens, not government or military, would be in charge of who can have their rights taken away; furthermore, if the President places an organization on the list which is not deserving, the grand jury has the power to keep any person off the list associated with that group. This would insure that only those most deserving of this punishment would be given it. The grand jury would presumably be very conservative with their punishment for fear that the government begins bringing charges too often over too trivial an offense.
One thing is certain: terrorists do not deserve constitutional protection, no matter where they were born, or where they were apprehended. When the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks is captured, there should be no scenario in which he feels confident and comfortable enough to say “I’ll talk to you guys after I get to New York and see my lawyer.” As Sen. Lindsey graham (Rep. SC) stated, we need to have the security to tell them “shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You are an enemy combatant, and we are going to talk to you about why you joined Al Qaeda.”
10 Dec, 2011
About patriotslogI am studying to achieve a double major in political science and journalism from the University of Kentucky. I am married to a wonderful woman named Sierra. I am starting this blog because I feel the political climate in Washington is carving deep canyons for our children to climb out of. Our representatives, on both sides of the isle, do not represent us, they represent the lobbyists.This blog is not to give answers, but to make people think. I believe the more we think about our ideas the better they will become; as opposed to becoming more and more intrenched in far left or right wing brainwash, where it seems nobody thinks anymore. I hope y'all enjoy.
Posted on December 12, 2011, in Constitutional Law, Patriotslog Articles and tagged $662 billion, Anwar Al-Alwaki, Constitution, constitutional rights, Donald Rumsfeld, human rights, Khalid Shiek Mohammed, military tribunal, National Defense Authorization Act, Osama Bin Laden, President Bush, President Obama, Senate, Terrorism. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.