Saturday, May 19, 2012

A New Attack on the Constitution

New York Times
May 18, 2012

On Wednesday, a federal judge struck down a law allowing the indefinite detention of anyone suspected of terrorism on American soil as a violation of free speech and due process. Two days later, the House made it clear it considered those to be petty concerns, voting to keep the repellent practice of indefinite detention on the books.

On a 238-to-182 vote, it rejected a proposal for something so basic that it is hard to believe there was an argument about it: a formal charge and trial for anyone arrested in the United States. You might have thought that was guaranteed in the Constitution, but that right was stripped away in last year’s military policy bill, signed by President Obama, which made an exception for terror suspects. By giving the military the power to deal with domestic terrorists, the bill essentially allowed presidents to brand anyone a terrorist and lock them up for life without a trial.

“That is an extraordinary amount of power to give the executive branch over individual freedom and liberty,” said Adam Smith, a Democrat of Washington, who proposed amending this year’s defense bill to end the exception. “I don’t think it is necessary to keep us safe.” He was joined by Justin Amash, a Republican of Michigan, and several libertarians who feared government abuse.