A king has the right to arrest and execute whomever he wants. To oppose this summary power our Founders added Article IV of the Bill of Rights which says, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury ... and ... to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation ...”
Last year Congress passed into law the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act which President Obama signed on Jan. 1, which includes the indefinite detention bill. It gives the president the right to detain American citizens in military custody without a trial indefinitely if they “directly supported” hostilities against the U.S. or its coalition partners.”
A New York Times editorial reads: “The legislation could also give future presidents the authority to throw American citizens in prison for life without charges or a trial.”
Former FBI Agent Colleen Rowley said that “given the current legal ambiguity in the Patriot Act, expansion of ‘material support for terrorism’ now includes humanitarian aid and even mere advocacy speech without any need to prove an accused person intended to support any kind of terrorist violence.”
The ACLU called the bill “an historic threat to American citizens.”
President Obama attached a statement to his signing of the bill, HR 1540, saying his administration “will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a nation. My administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war and all other applicable law.”
The president, of course, does not ultimately interpret the law, the judiciary does. The fact that the president says that he will not use these powers means nothing when he has just signed into law the very powers he says he will not use. Neither will future presidents be bound by such a disclaimer.
Guantanamo has proven a dry run for legislation that takes another step in establishing a kingdom on our own soil.
Constitutional lawyer Jonathan Turley wrote that “Obama signed one of the greatest rollbacks of civil liberties in the history of our country.”
Of the eight congressmen from Kentucky, all but Senator Paul and Representative Yarmuth supported the president’s right to imprison American citizens without charges or a trial.
Think about that the next time you cast your ballot.