Whatever dragons Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama believed they had to slay for their “War on Terror,” they have sacrificed key guarantees in the U.S. Constitution. Obama has been the worst offender, ignoring Congress on major policies and making the judiciary his sword. I believe these two presidents have not been malevolent, yet they have suspended liberties that they were sworn to protect.
There always seems to be a “but,” and in the U.S. Constitution it is a whopper. The Suspension Clause of the United States Constitution can be found in Article 1, Section 9, clause 2, which demands that: “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.”
Two earlier presidents, who to this day are revered, suspended habeas corpus. They are Abraham Lincoln in 1861 during the Civil War and Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1942, when eight German saboteurs, including two U.S. citizens who had secretly entered the United States to attack its civil infrastructure as part of Operation Pastorius, were convicted by a secret military tribunal.
In both cases the suspension of due rights was under extreme circumstances, but most recently its usage has been more sweeping and more casually implemented.
In 2006, Bush suspended habeas corpus to persons “determined by the United States” to be an “enemy combatant” in the global War on Terror. Bush’s action drew severe criticism, mainly for the law’s failure to specifically designate who in the United States will determine who is and who is not an “enemy combatant.”
In 2011 Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act providing for indefinite imprisonment, without trial or indictment, of any U.S. citizens designated as enemies by our president.
It gives sweeping presidential powers over U.S. citizens, even those who never entered combat or participated in any military actions. Instead, anyone designated by the Obama administration as “a member of Al-Qaeda or the Taliban and who substantially supports these organizations” has no rights under the law.
Bush and Obama have been cavalier about trampling the Constitutional rights of Americans. With the growing threat from ISIS, which has manifested in violence in Europe and America, it is almost certain that neither Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump nor presumed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton will impose limits on their powers by doing anything that would give them less power.
The sweeping powers of the executive branch would be so alien to Ronald Reagan and Congress in the 1980s, it would not have been believed possible… at least not in one generation.
To millions, this election is about which nominee is most likely to further abuse the powers of his or her office.
Last week I wrote to you under the headline: Catch-22: Guns, violence and race in America.
I look for Catch-22s in life (you can only borrow money if you don’t need it) and came upon the Douglas Adams’ quote at the top. Given the amount of drive, ambition and the almost divine belief in an individual’s own qualifications required to become a national elected official that one of them would be the last people you want to give the authority to launch a nuclear war abroad or a war at home.
Restrictions were put on the executive branch after Watergate. Former Vice President Dick Cheney railed against limiting powers of the executive branch. He saw 9/11 as a watershed moment to expand executive authority. For the most part, our representatives in Congress have not resisted this choking off of our American liberties.
The Founding Fathers never intended the Suspension Clause to make it so easy for a president to garner sweeping powers. But it has happened.
In 2013 Global Research published an article on the grave situation facing Americans:
It is now possible to deprive United States citizens of their fundamental rights because they have taken part in armed action against their own country, but also when they take a political position favorable to those who use military action to resist the Empire.