individual rights civil liberties security state national defense

10 reasons the U.S. is no longer the land of the free
freedoms charlottesville resolution war powers

A Virginia City Tells National Gov't to Quit Warring

While federal politicians give themselves more legal powers to violate citizens, some citizens have persuaded local leaders to stand tall. We trim, blend, and append two 2012 articles from (1) Washington Post, Jan 13, on a new law by J. Turley (at George Washington University) and (2), Jan 17, on a resolution by D. Swanson.

by Jonathan Turley and by David Swanson

Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy.

Even as we pass judgment on countries, in the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens.

Other countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens -- precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.

1) Last month, administration officials stated that the president can order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists. (Nations such as Nigeria, Iran, and Syria have been routinely criticized for extrajudicial killings of enemies of the state.)

2) Now terrorism suspects are to be held by the military; the president also has the authority to indefinitely detain citizens accused of terrorism.

3) The president now decides whether a person will receive a trial in the federal courts or in a military tribunal, a system that has been ridiculed around the world for lacking basic due process protections. (Egypt and China have been denounced for maintaining separate military justice systems for selected defendants, including civilians.)

4) The president may now order warrantless surveillance, including a new capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizens’ finances, communications, and associations. (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to engage in widespread discretionary surveillance.)

5) The government now routinely uses secret evidence to detain individuals and employs secret evidence in federal and military courts.

6) When courts in countries such as Spain moved to investigate Bush officials for war crimes, the Obama administration reportedly urged foreign officials not to allow such cases to proceed, despite the fact that the United States has long claimed the same authority with regard to alleged war criminals in other countries.

7) The government has increased its use of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has expanded its secret warrants and secret searches of individuals. The administration has asserted the right to ignore congressional limits on such surveillance. (Pakistan places national security surveillance under the unchecked powers of the military or intelligence services.)

8) The Obama administration has successfully pushed for immunity for companies that assist in warrantless surveillance of citizens. (Similarly, China has maintained sweeping immunity claims both inside and outside the country and routinely blocks lawsuits against private companies.)

9) The administration can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. (Saudi Arabia has installed massive public surveillance systems, while Cuba is notorious for active monitoring of selected citizens.)

10) The government now has the ability to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to another country under a system known as extraordinary rendition, which has been denounced as using other countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Pakistan, to torture suspects.

These new laws have come with an infusion of public funds into an expanded security system on the state and federal levels, including more public surveillance cameras, tens of thousands of security personnel, and a massive expansion of bureaucracy.

James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers. In 1787, after signing the Constitution, Benjamin Franklin was asked, “Well, Doctor, what have we got: a republic or a monarchy? He replie, “A republic, Madam, if you can keep it.

Dishonesty from politicians is nothing new. The real question is whether we are lying to ourselves when we call this country the land of the free.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: Perhaps the real question is not about politics but about economics, that we let politicians spend our public money in the first place. That kind of power goes to anybody’s head after a while. Citizens will have to do more than just oppose, but that’s a start.

The City Council of Charlottesville, Virginia, home of Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and the University of Virginia, passed a resolution, believed to be a first in the country, opposing the launching of a war on Iran, as well as calling for an end to current ground and drone wars engaged in by the United States and urging Congress and the President of the United States to significantly reduce military spending.

The resolution was passed on the 51st anniversary of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's warning of the dangers of the Military Industrial Complex.

Council Member Kathy Galvin countered that reducing military spending might endanger the safety of troops. She claimed the military is protecting our rights despite the erosion of our rights facilitated by war, inaccurately describing the powers the Constitution gives the President, expressing support for the office of the President less than a month after the power to imprison people without trial was made a part of that office.

Galvin proposed a rewording asking the President and Congress to "continue" working to redirect military spending to domestic priorities which falsely implied that such work was already underway.

Come time for the vote, citizens packed city hall. Three of the five council members voted for the strong version of the resolution while Galvin abstained. Everyone else applauded.

To see the whole article, click here .

JJS: One prominent person received a lot of publicity for taking a similar stand.

This professional athlete released the following statement regarding his absence from the Bruins' visit to the White House:

"I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers' vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT"

To see his statement, click here .

JJS: People who stand up to the state give me hope. But like Gen. Al Haig said, he doesn’t care how many people protest as long as they keep paying “their” taxes. He nailed it. The war machine does not run on air. As long as people keep paying for it, they can’t stop it.

People need to curb the spending powers of politicians. They also need to move beyond the notion of taxation being just and instead focus on recovering and sharing our common wealth. Taxes make us feel powerless while sharing makes us feel empowered, and empowered people won’t put up with this drift toward an authoritarian state.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Can one kill, conscience intact?

Reporters Without Borders surveys the nations

A US Department of Peace introduced

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