Friday, December 16, 2011

[Sociology] Civil Liberties Follow Up

Goodmongo has talked to his local senator.

I went to a town hall meeting with my senator (Kirk-Illinois) and actually got to ask him about the bill allowing US citizens to be arrested and held by the military.

It seems that the actual bill has language in it that practically forces a US Supreme Court ruling when it is first used (if it ever is). This is why most voted for it as it turns out the legislative branch couldn't decide so they crafted a bill that basically forces the judicial branch to rule on its constitutionality.

So this sort of blows up your whole post. Especially your comment that it somehow violated the separation or powers. [..]

My answer is this:
I'm not a professional journalist and this means that I rely on other media. So, thanks for the info and I absolutely support your commitment. But I don't see how this helps much. I commented before (paraphrased):
1) I don't care whether this bill is illegal/unconstitutional or not. It is wrong.

2) Just because all branches agree to violate separation of power doesn't mean that it isn't a violation. The new law would enable the executive to detain citizens indefinitely without being affected by the judiciary!

3) The loss of life during the 'war on terror' on US side which happened on US ground (not fighting Taliban or Iraqis), is minimal. Yes, 9/11 was bad. But the probability to die to a terrorist attack in any year is lower than to die due to crossing streets. It's neither a danger for any specific US citizen nor does it threaten your way of life in any way - unless you do away with your way of life on your own.

The war on terror is fear mongering to get votes. Anybody who is even a bit skeptical of government should be appalled by this, in my opinion.

This still stands. I can't understand how redistributing wealth is too much government but to allow the government to enter your house, shackle and detain you indefinitely without access to a lawyer or any person other than the one who brings you your meals is not. Everybody can be suspicious of terrorism. If somebody told the goverment that he thinks that you are a terrorist - you are already suspicious! And, afaik, the law in no way demands that the government actually investigates the suspicions!

The bill has, by the way, been signed by the President after a few minor modifications. This would make President Obama unelectable to me. But then, the alternatives are unelectable, too.

I honestly don't know what the US is thinking. This bill - if it is declared constitutional - is a dramatic violation of civil liberties and separation of power - and without any reason. I could maybe understand this if the Taliban had just invaded California and are estimated to reach Washington in two weeks or so ...

I'll finish by quoting the article I linked before:
As President Franklin Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."
We ultimately vanquish terrorism when we refuse to be terrorized.
Edit: Apparently the modified bill does not necessarily(?) apply to US citizens anymore. There also seem to be legal loopholes which might(?) allow the FBI or local police to take over. In my defense: the whole thing seems to be so damn complicated that among other news papers The Guardian as well as the New York Times had and still have problems understanding it and all its possible consequences; especially when seen in context with existing law. (link1) (link2)

In any way this is a public relations disaster. But maybe the US has become immune to this kind of disaster by now ...


  1. I know you like short answers but Mr. Kirk's answer was not short.

    See in Chicago there was a US citizen named Padillia that was arrested and sent to Gitmo. A legal battle started but before it was finished he was moved to civilian courts and tried there.

    An appellate court actually found that it was 'legal' to try him in military courts.

    So this is an open issue and various senators couldn't agree so they compromised. Even Mr. Obama who was going to veto this said he would sign it as it contains this 'poison pill language' that basically forces the courts to decide.

    It is not the best way but in the US today it might be the only way this could be resolved.

    And for the record as a conservative/libertarian I am AGAINST the law. But things are so toxic in US politics that wierd things have to be done to get them right in the long run.

  2. Isn't there a danger that after the legislature allows the Bill expecting the Supreme Court to decide yes/no, that the Supreme Court will allow the Bill because the legislature passed it?

    I know in the UK the judiciary considers itself subordinate to the legislature in principle. In other words they interpret and administer the law but should not make it.

  3. I just like answers that fit in one consecutive comment and don't quote lots of other texts. But feel free to make one consecutive comment as long as you want.

    Your president agrees with you: compromise is necessary. And on 99% of all other topics I would wholeheartedly agree, too. But not this one. Maybe I'm just overly thin-skinned here, because I am German and Hitler was actually democratically elected and followed the law for a very long time. (And he isn't the joke figure the media has made him in recent decades - unfortunately).

    To allow the president to detain you indefinitely just because "you are suspicious"? If this weren't the US I'd fear a coup d'état next ...

  4. Oh and if I may leave a quick response to Syl regarding security services monitoring of subversives

    My knowledge of this is based on my experiences in Britain and reports in the British press and is about monitoring of "threats" such as left wing MPs, civil liberties activists, deomnstrators of all types and of course Muslims here in the UK.

    I can't speak for the US, however I'd be astonished if your secret police were less invasive than ours.

  5. I'm worried about the bill and so are many others. It is rare to see very liberal and very conservative people on the exact same side. But this is an issue that our politicians are hearing us on.

    One thing that is different from Hitler/Germany and US/military is the oath. Hitler had the military swear an oath to him whereas in the US the military swears an oath to defend the Constitution. (BTW I am an avid historical fan of German history circa 1920-1945 and even of central Europe from 1390 to 1945).

    So the bill has concerns and various politicians like Mark Kirk have tried to explain that this actually will resolve the issue.

    While nothing in the SC is 100% so far from my research I'm reading that if and when the SC gets this law they will rule its unconstitutional. And may have to face the much bigger issues of how far can a president go during wartime and what exactly is a war. If the bill does force the SC to clarify these it will be a good thing in the long run.

    Till then lets hope that they are telling the truth and it isn't the first step to a dictatorship. But then again that's why the US citizens love their 2nd amendment rights.

    @Stabs in the US the Supreme Court is equal and actually in their mind a little more equal then the other two branches. they don't make the law but instead rule wheter or not the law should have even been passed. Two HUGE cases will be determined this year (Healthcare law and immigration laws).

  6. In the political climate that we are in, the Supreme Court really needs to be working on overdrive. There are so many things that need to be decided and I would really love for them to step up and assert some of their judicial authority to keep the other 2 branches in check. I feel congress sometimes resorts to reckless legislation due to lack of compromise in Washington in recent years.

    Unfortunately, there is evidence that the SC has become a bit more partisan itself than in the past and that is somewhat alarming. I fear it will distract them from the issues and from ruling on constitutionality rather than personal feelings. I could be overreacting, but i feel its valid to do so since they will be deciding on major issues that will affect the lives of all Americans.

    We need to be sure that our laws are consistent with our constitution. If we don't like the result then we can decide whether we want to change said constitution or not.

  7. Added some info to the bottom of the post.