Bill of Rights, RIP

The civil-rights abuses of recent years are now set in stone

The author is a professor emeritus of the Music Department at Chico State and a concert pianist.

Congress recently passed the National Defense Authorization Act, and President Obama signed it into law. The act contains provisions allowing for the indefinite detention of American citizens, without charge or trial or opportunity to challenge their detention—a clear violation of the right of habeas corpus. It also authorizes the military to carry out such detention contrary to the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

Thirteen senators and 136 representatives from across the political spectrum voted against the bill. Democratic Sen. Al Franken stated: “It denigrates the Bill of Rights … what our Founders intended when they created a civilian, nonmilitary justice system … to ensure we did not become a country under military rule.”

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky wrote: “Detaining citizens without trial is not American. … We’re talking about American citizens who can be taken from the United States and sent to a camp at Guantanamo Bay and held indefinitely. It puts every American at risk.”

Article I, Section 9, clause 2 of the Constitution states, “The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

The last time I checked, there was neither a rebellion nor an outside invasion of our homeland, although Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Carl Levin seem to think the war on terror has moved to our streets. The only terrorists I have noticed lately are members of police departments in New York, Oakland, Davis and elsewhere beating, tear-gassing, pepper-spraying and shooting nonlethal projectiles at peaceful Occupy protesters. Thankfully, not so in Chico.

Over the last decade, torture, profiling of Muslims, extreme rendition, assassination, domestic spying, endless war, persecution of whistleblowers have been carried out in our name with our tax dollars and justified in the name of security: “After 9/11, everything changed.” The NDAA now sets in stone the abuses of Presidents Bush and Obama in expanding their executive power.

Is the domestic terrorist threat as “real” as proponents of the bill assert? Or is the bill a pretext to silence current dissent that exposes the corruption of Wall Street and the stranglehold by the military-industrial complex, powerful lobbies and elite on all branches of our government?

We, the people, need to demand that Congress repeal the draconian provisions of the NDAA. In words attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.”