Saturday, December 10, 2011

Police State America, coming really soon

Talk about inconvenient but it really sucks to high heaven when the soulless husks posing as elected leaders and polishing seats up in Congress actively seek to destroy the United States Constitution right in the middle of the Christmas shopping season. Of course neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights can get your average twenty-first century American a fifty-inch LED television at a great price, with most everything in the United States dysfunctional or outright falling apart Americans can take pride that their talent for setting priorities has not suffered. However, that is the very thing happening up in the halls of Congress while Americans lucky enough to have a job or at least a working credit card do their impersonation of rats running the retail maze.

What pray tell are the senile but power hungry minions up in Washington trying to do? It is the National Defense Authorization Act (S.1867) which provides funds for the military allowing them to do all sorts of things from the benign building of family housing on military bases to the unabashedly sinister indefinite detention on American citizens accused of supporting terrorism.

Yes, that is correct; I have not flown off into the nether regions of some really bad Orwellian novel, although I sincerely wish that would was the case. Overly proud stuffed and deluded suits have convinced themselves that the fate of the Republic hangs in the balance unless we betray the very principles that we established the United States to preserve.

The putrid meat of the bill is contained in section 1031which through some intentionally vague wording expands the definition of terrorist activity. A seriously cool thing when you have inconvenient groups running around protesting and members of the powerful elite looking on in disgust upset they could not get to the stock market in time because traffic was blocked. The cops will be even more happy because it will offer them more chances to don their fancy riot control body armor and use pepper spray on college kids.

Personally, I would like to lay all the blame for this on soulless husks I mentioned above with the prime examples being Senile John McCain and his absolute Sweetness Lindsey Graham but truthfully, they are just the distorted reflection of a nation deeply saturated with fear and apathy. Our nation did not get this way magically, sometime in the past the American people, totally comfortable in their credit card fueled lives and convinced of their total awesomeness, left the controls of the government open to all sorts of strange and bizarre creatures. The result being an encroaching police state that the American people of the 1970’s would not have let stand for one single second.

Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone has a far better handle on the subject:

Indefinite Detention of American Citizens: Coming Soon to Battlefield U.S.A.

There’s some disturbing rhetoric flying around in the debate over the National Defense Authorization Act, which among other things contains passages that a) officially codify the already-accepted practice of indefinite detention of "terrorist" suspects, and b) transfer the responsibility for such detentions exclusively to the military.

The fact that there’s been only some muted public uproar about this provision (which, disturbingly enough, is the creature of Wall Street anti-corruption good guy Carl Levin, along with John McCain) is mildly surprising, given what’s been going on with the Occupy movement. Protesters in fact should be keenly interested in the potential applications of this provision, which essentially gives the executive branch unlimited powers to indefinitely detain terror suspects without trial.

The really galling thing is that this act specifically envisions American citizens falling under the authority of the bill. One of its supporters, the dependably-unlikeable Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, bragged that the law "basically says … for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield" and that people can be jailed without trial, be they "American citizen or not." New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte reiterated that "America is part of the battlefield."

Officially speaking, of course, the bill only pertains to:

"... a person who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."

As Glenn Greenwald notes, the key passages here are "substantially supported" and "associated forces." The Obama administration and various courts have already expanded their definition of terrorism to include groups with no connection to 9/11 (i.e. certain belligerents in Yemen and Somalia) and to individuals who are not members of the target terror groups, but merely provided "substantial support."

The definitions, then, are, for the authorities, conveniently fungible. They may use indefinite detention against anyone who "substantially supports" terror against the United States, and it looks an awful lot like they have leeway in defining not only what constitutes "substantial" and "support," but even what "terror" is. Is a terrorist under this law necessarily a member of al-Qaeda or the Taliban? Or is it merely someone who is "engaged in hostilities against the United States"?

Here’s where I think we’re in very dangerous territory. We have two very different but similarly large protest movements going on right now in the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. What if one of them is linked to a violent act? What if a bomb goes off in a police station in Oakland, or an IRS office in Texas? What if the FBI then linked those acts to Occupy or the Tea Party?

You can see where this is going. When protesters on the left first started flipping out about George Bush’s indefinite detention and rendition policies, most people thought the idea that these practices might someday be used against ordinary Americans was merely an academic concern, something theoretical.

But it’s real now. If these laws are passed, we would be forced to rely upon the discretion of a demonstrably corrupt and consistently idiotic government to not use these awful powers to strike back at legitimate domestic unrest.

Right now, the Senate is openly taking aim at the rights of American citizens under the guise of an argument that anyone who supports al-Qaeda has no rights. But if you pay close attention, you’ll notice the law’s supporters here and there conveniently leaving out those caveats about "anyone who supports al-Qaeda." For instance, here’s Lindsey Graham again:

"If you’re an American citizen and you betray your country, you’re not going to be given a lawyer ... I believe our military should be deeply involved in fighting these guys at home or abroad."

As Greenwald points out, this idea – that an American who commits treason can be detained without due process – is in direct defiance of Article III, Section III of the Constitution, which reads:

"No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court."

This effort to eat away at the rights of the accused was originally gradual, but to me it looks like that process is accelerating. It began in the Bush years with a nebulous description of terrorist sedition that may or may not have included links to Sunni extremist groups in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan.

But words like "associated" and "substantial" and "betray" have crept into the discussion, and now it feels like the definition of a terrorist is anyone who crosses some sort of steadily-advancing invisible line in their opposition to the current government.

This confusion about the definition of terrorism comes at a time when the economy is terrible, the domestic government is more unpopular than ever, and there is quite a lot of radical and even revolutionary political agitation going on right here at home. There are people out there – I’ve met some of them, in both the Occupy and Tea Party movements – who think that the entire American political system needs to be overthrown, or at least reconfigured, in order for progress to be made.

It sounds paranoid and nuts to think that those people might be arrested and whisked away to indefinite, lawyerless detention by the military, but remember: This isn’t about what’s logical, it’s about what’s going on in the brains of people like Lindsey Graham and John McCain.

At what point do those luminaries start equating al-Qaeda supporters with, say, radical anti-capitalists in the Occupy movement? What exactly is the difference between such groups in the minds (excuse me, in what passes for the minds) of the people who run this country?

That difference seems to be getting smaller and smaller all the time, and such niceties as American citizenship and the legal tradition of due process seem to be less and less meaningful to the people who run things in America.

What does seem real to them is this “battlefield earth” vision of the world, in which they are behind one set of lines and an increasingly enormous group of other people is on the other side.

Here’s another way to ask the question: On which side of the societal fence do you think the McCains and Grahams would put, say, an unemployed American plumber who refused an eviction order from Bank of America and holed up with his family in his Florida house, refusing to move? Would Graham/McCain consider that person to have the same rights as Lloyd Blankfein, or is that plumber closer, in their eyes, to being like the young Muslim who throws a rock at a U.S. embassy in Yemen?

A few years ago, that would have sounded like a hysterical question. But it just doesn’t seem that crazy anymore. We’re turning into a kind of sci-fi society in which making it and being a success not only means getting rich, but also means winning the full rights of citizenship. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t see this ending well.


Terica said...

Wow very eye opening. I am passing this on at my peace page on FB.
peace terica

Randal Graves said...

At least our movie should be more entertaining than Battlefield Earth.

Mr. Charleston said...

Where have these people been? I thought the police state began at Kent State 40 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Police state has been here for quite a while.

Consider also what just happened in a federal court in Texas. In this case, As described at , a Dallas business owner was involved in a civil dispute and paid millions of dollars to lawyers, and when he objected to additional fees after settling the case, they had a "friendly" judge seize all of his possessions, without any notice or hearing, and essentially ordered him under “house arrest” as an involuntary servant to the lawyers, threatened that his orders are punishable “by death” and denied a jury trial. The business owner has been under this "servant" order for 10 months and is prohibited from owning any possessions, prohibited from working, etc..

Beach Bum said...

Terica: Thanks, the piece could have been far better if I had my coffee first.

Randal: What?! You did not like John Travolta's cinematic wonder!

Mr. Charleston: The full effect takes time, it funny really, the most up to date infrastructure in the country is the State's surveillance ability.

Free: Had not heard that, personally I skip the country if I had the chance.

Windsmoke. said...

Same thing happened down here in OZ because business leaders claimed the occupy protesters were affecting business in the city and they were forceable removed by the police, so i guess we have a police state to :-).

MRMacrum said...

And the Patriot Act was not enough of a clue this might happen? Speak harshly to power and it will defend itself.

John McElveen said...

Powerful and true! Marxism, Socialism- here we come!


Beach Bum said...

Windsmoke: The things that really sends chill down my spine is the thought of indefinite detention for American citizens.

Since I am ex-military I do know the much abused Geneva Convention does have little in the way of sympathy for combatants not in organized national military forces. Let me be clear I am not giving Gitmo a pass but I am saying if I was to start a guerrilla campaign the national army that caught me would have a wide set of choices to deal with my actions.

Now the narcissistic idiots in the United States Senate, 93 in all cover both left and right-wing members think throwing Americans in jail without any recourse is just fine. The wording of section 1031 does not make any distinction about Islamic terrorists or just those challenging the status quo in this country.

Mike Crum: That is exactly what we have and any sane person, both left and right, should be scared.

John: The end result of both Fascism, which I believe is the case here, and Communism is the destruction of liberty.

Akelamalu said...

It's scary stuff. :0

Mike said...

And add the repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act into the same National Defense Authorization Act along with thousands of troops coming home, Could be a nightmare brewing.

Nance said...

"...sometime in the past the American people, totally comfortable in their credit card fueled lives and convinced of their total awesomeness..."

Never heard a better description of America, 2001-2007.

And, what Mr. Charleston said.

goatman said...

That most of these brainiacs are part of the 1% should not be a surprise.
Time to sharpen up those guillotines!

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