The Bizarro World of Fighting Terrorism

Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), the man who believed and still believes that private businesses should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, struck a blow for adherence to the U.S. Constitution when he filibustered against the Department of Justice position that U.S. citizens could be killed on U.S. soil, without due process of law, provided that they had been deemed to be associated with terrorist activity.

During his nearly 13-hour filibuster, Senator Paul raised a question about what would happen if a U.S. citizen visited a cousin who was a terrorism suspect. Paul’s fear is a realistic one, because under current law, someone who donates money to a charity without any knowledge that the charity is funnelling money to Al Qaeda or “associated forces,” can be charged and prosecuted for a very seriious crime. Could mere contact with a terrorism suspect place one’s life and liberty in jeopardy?

I also agree with Senator Paul that President Obama is trying to shift any blame for his drone strikes, because he claims that Congress should write legislation specifying what he can and can’t do. Obama has hitched his right to indefinitely detain people, send them to countries that torture and prepare kill lists, on the authorization to use force resolution passed before the invasion of Iraq; therefore, Congress should rescind that resolution. Next, Congress should amend the National Defense Authorization Act to eliminate any language weakening habeas corpus and subjecting anyone to indefinite detention without due process of law. Ideally, Congress should prohibit drone strikes, because they are acts of war and the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the sole powerr to declare war. 

Some supporters of President Obama claim that his drone strikes and kill lists are justified by his powers as commander-in-chief. The commander-in-chief cannot, however, take away legal rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution.

The “Bizarro” reference in the title of this blog applies to Attorney General Eric Holder, who just a short time ago, issued an opinoin that U.S. citizens can be killed by the government, even on U.S. soil, and then issued a two-sentence statement that U.S. citizens could not be arbitrarily killed, except if they are engaged in combat. It is bizarre that Holder believes that a two-sentence statement adequately addresses an issue of great magnitude. Given that both George W. Bush and Barack Obama believe that in the effort to eradicate terrorism, the whole world is a battlefield, thus, the United States is a battle zone and designating what constitutes combat becomes a major issue.

The decision to make the eradication of terrorism a prime U.S. mission has had and continues to have very adverse consequences: 1) it has enabled two U.S. presidents to assume unprecedented powers; 2) is has allowed the executive branch to assume legislative powers, such as when the Bush administration crafted a new criminal classification: enemy combatant; and 3) it has empowered governments worldwide to take unlimited punitive actions against any individual or group designated as a terrorist or a terrorist organization.




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