Organize to Break New Ground
Time for a New Constitution and New Direction for the Economy!
As people in the U.S. joined those worldwide in organizing various activities in December to carry forward the fight for human rights and migrant rights, the criminal state of human rights inside the U.S. was brutally evident. So too was the necessity for the working class and people to advance their fight to break new ground, to organize for a new direction for the economy and for political affairs.
The violence of poverty is increasing and impacting almost half of the people in the U.S., many of them workers. (see VOR update 111215). More children are hungry and homeless than last year and the numbers are increasing. The President and Congress joined in providing more than $660 billion in funding for the Pentagon and criminal U.S. wars, while also imposing trillions of dollars in cuts for basic human rights like the rights to education, housing and healthcare.
Immigrants face yet more deportations, with a record more than 400,000 this year alone, separating many families. Mass detentions, government violence and racism against immigrant and national minority communities intensifies. Mass racist incarceration and torture of prisoners using solitary confinement also continues, while the Guantánamo concentration camp and others worldwide continue their indefinite detention and torture of thousands.
On the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, Congress passed a bill that enshrines indefinite detention without charges or trial of “any person” branded by the president as having “supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces.” There are no definitions of what constitutes “support” or “associated forces” so the government has impunity to interpret this however it chooses. Arrests and detention of citizens and non-citizens alike, inside and outside of the country can be done by the military or other policing agencies, as the president decides. Due process, habeas corpus, being charged before a judge, trial by jury, detention on the basis of conviction of a crime, all are now officially not the law. Presidential descretion to brand people and organizations as "terrorists," or "supporters" of "associated forces" and impose indefinite detention without charges or trial has been codified into law.
The existing Constitution with its Bill of Rights has not blocked the brutal government attacks on rights and its current direction of more war and fascism, with indefinite detention a part of this. So too is Obama's use of targetted assassinations, which are also decided at his descretion as president executing his powers.
There are no mechanisms for the public to enforce its will, such as national referendums, or means to challenge unjust laws or eliminate these police powers of the president. There is no ability to bring criminal charges against a government and government officials committing crimes.
Poverty is a social crime of violence but the Constitution does not make it so. On the contrary it protects private property and the property rights of the rich. Workers, youth, demonstrators all have experience that in the name of protecting private property and monopoly right, they can be jailed for defending their rights while crimes by the monopolies and their government go unpunished.
We live in a modern society with a socialized economy where the workers produce abundant wealth. As human beings we have rights simply because we are human. We are born to society and depend on society. Governments, at all levels, have the social responsibility to guarantee the rights of all, including human rights, migrant rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights and minority rights. Yet the working class and people are faced with an economy that cannot provide for the rights of all and a political system that stands against the will of the majority and systematically guarantees the rights of the monopolies — to plunder and exploit the peoples and sustain their unsustainable system through force.
There is an alternative to this criminal and unsustainable system that the workers themselves can and must organize to bring about. A new direction for the economy, one that serves the people is required. A new political system that empowers the people themselves to govern and decide is required. A new Constitution that is human centered and puts guaranteeing the rights of all at the center, is the order of the day. Demanding political mechanisms enabling the people to charge and punish those who trample on rights; providing for national referendum votes on major issues with the government required to provide full information on the issues; and local and state empowerment councils can all be fought for now.
The ruling circles are making clear that they have no solutions to the social problems we face. Measures such as indefinite detention without trial are measures of desperation, of a class that cannot go forward and thus is driving society backward so as to cling to their outdated rule.
Such desperation has no place among the working class and people. There is an alternative! The working class has the numbers and social duty to block the direction of fascism and war and strike out on its own new path. Struggles over the past year, by Wisconsin workers, those in Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere are indicative that workers are uniting to defend rights while also challenging the existing set up that blocks the people from power. Organizing to further build up their own fighting defense organizations and keep matters in their own hands is a struggle being waged. Taking up the fight to settle scores with the old, including the old Constitution and its old political arrangements by breaking new ground is a path workers can take up with confidence, knowing it provides a way forward for all.
Organize to Break New Ground!
On December 15 Congress approved the 2012 funding for the Pentagon, $662 billion, an increase over last year. U.S. military funding accounts for more than 40 percent of all military spending worldwide. It is already far larger than the combined spending of the next top six countries in military funding, which include China, Russia and Japan.
The bill passed both the House and Senate by large majorities, 86-13 in the Senate and 283-136 in the House. However, the various votes on amendments showed the continuing fracturing of the political parties, with blocs of both parties voting for and against at various times. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it by December 26.
The increase in Pentagon funding is occurring when the U.S. aggressive wars against Iraq and Afghanistan are supposed to be ending. And when there are trillions of dollars in cuts to social programs, including education, Medicare, funding for emergency food and shelter — programs needed by increasing numbers of families. For many the bill is a crime of itself, funding aggression while increasing broad attacks on the rights of the people.
Consistent with U.S. crimes against the peace of planning aggressive war against Iran, the bill also includes more sanctions against Iran. The sanctions are aimed not at Iran’s nuclear energy, but at her oil sector. They are also another example of the U.S. use of sanctions to interfere in the sovereignty of other countries. Specifically, central banks of other countries and foreign financial institutions will have to stop engaging in large oil transactions with Iran or be shut out of the U.S. financial system, which dominates worldwide trading. Thus everyone is to submit to U.S. dictate or themselves face U.S. sanctions. Allies like South Korea and Japan, big consumers of Iranian oil, have already begun seeking waivers to any U.S. sanctions, which can be granted by the president.
Consistent with President Obama’s role of institutionalizing increased police powers of the executive and broad attacks on rights, the bill also serves to codify in law the power of the president to indefinitely detain without trial those he brands as “suspected terrorists.” Indefinite detention can be applied to citizens and non-citizens alike, arrested inside or outside the U.S. It includes detention by the military. This serves to increase the role of the military in policing actions inside the country, including allowing them to make arrests — something largely banned since the time of the Civil War. But detention is not limited to the military, meaning it can also be carried out by the CIA or ICE or other agencies. It is also directly contrary to what had been rule of law in the U.S., including norms such as innocent until proven guilty of a crime, being charged in open court before a judge, a right to a public jury trial and detention based on conviction for a crime, not “suspicion.” It can be said that the bill is being used to make the tyranny and injustice of elimination of due process and use of indefinite detention without charges “legal” and legitimate.
The legislation also extends for another year a ban on transferring prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay concentration camp, even to face trial and on the use of Pentagon funds to build facilities in the U.S. to house such prisoners. Obama cannot release any detainee to another country without meeting certification requirements regarding that country’s security measures, requirements that have not yet been met anywhere, according to the U.S.
The U.S. continues to hold at least 2,500 people in detention centers around the world, according to letter Obama provided to House Speaker Republican John A. Boehner December 15. Guantánamo Bay is holding 170 detainees, the president said. The Pentagon, CIA, FBI and others have cleared more than half of these 170 people for release, and the Supreme Court has required it for some, yet they remain in indefinite detention at Guantánamo. The Pentagon bill ensures they will continue to be held prisoner.
The passage of the bill also was done in what is becoming “normal” for Congress, with top people in Congressional committees meeting behind closed doors then imposing and rapidly passing the final version of the bills without the usual congressional debate, hearings, and so forth. In this case it was rammed through by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees without the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees invoking their concurrent jurisdiction for public hearings. As well the usual legislative “findings” justifying the content were not provided. A final version of the detainee portion was worked out in committee and the final bill voted on within 24 hours in both the House and Senate, although both Congress and the President admitted the measure represented significant changes concerning indefinite detention without trial and the role of the military inside the country. As well, no Senator invoked what is called a “hold” to at least temporarily prevent passage of the bill, although several also stated the bill was unconstitutional.
Many across the U.S. and worldwide are denouncing the measure, both for its horrific military funding and its open efforts to completely eliminate rule of law and replace it with the executive tyranny of might makes right abroad and at home.
Contention Within Policing and Military Forces
Debate over the detainee section of the bill revealed contention between the FBI, CIA and military. The FBI said military detention could prevent it from interrogating suspects. FBI Director Robert Mueller gave the Lackawanna Six, all U.S. citizens, as an example where use of the military could have “interfered” with arrests and interrogations. It will be remembered that the case, from 2002, involved mass terrorizing of the Lackawanna community by a Joint Terrorism Task Force that included federal, state and local police agencies; no actual proof of any act of terrorism or violence; spying on mosques, gas stations and the youth soccer field; and forced guilty pleas that prevents trials, under threat of being sent to the Guantánamo concentration camp.
Military generals also raised concerns about the bill. Two retired 4 star marine generals, Charles C. Krulak and Joseph P. Hoar, urged a veto by Obama and said:
“One provision would authorize the military to indefinitely detain without charge people suspected of involvement with terrorism, including United States citizens apprehended on American soil. Due process would be a thing of the past. […]
“A second provision would mandate military custody for most terrorism suspects. It would force on the military responsibilities it has not sought”…. “for domestic law enforcement….”
“A third provision would further extend a ban on transfers from Guantánamo, ensuring that this morally and financially expensive symbol of detainee abuse will remain open well into the future.”
The final wording of the detainee portion of the bill further strengthens executive powers by giving the president authority to “include” indefinite military detention along with other forms and to also issue a “waiver” for the specific provisions in the name of national security. Specifically the key section, 1031, states: “Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40) includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons.” The “covered persons” are not only those “who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks.” It adds, “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, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.” The terms “substantially supported” and “associated forces” are not defined, while clearly “any person” includes citizens and non-citizens. Given existing experience with many government claims of “terrorism,” or “material support” for terrorism and its growing list of people and groups considered “terrorist” or “associated forces,” it is clear that anyone could be branded and subjected to indefinite detention without charges or trial.
In addition to the broad war of terror against Muslims and Arabs and any peoples standing against U.S. aggression, the government has also targeted numerous U.S. organizers and organizations as “supporters of terrorism” for opposing U.S. wars, organizing against the G20, G8 and NATO wars, organizing demonstrations at the RNC and DNC conventions in 2008 and more. Current indictments for “terrorism” charges against anti-war organizers and communist organizations fighting for an alternative to the current system may now become immediate arrests and indefinite military detention.
The upcoming year will also see what are called “national security” events in Chicago at the NATO/G8 meetings, as well as the DNC and RNC conventions, where protesters clearly can be branded as supporting “associated forces” simply for opposing wars against Libya and Iran and for demonstrating in support of the peoples. Indeed, efforts are already underway to criminalize protesters before any actions have occurred, by refusing to grant permits, thus making any demonstrations “unlawful.”
Despite these efforts to terrorize and criminalize all those organizing resistance here and abroad, work is going forward to continue the fight to oppose all U.S. wars, defend the rights of all and organize for an alternative that favors the people.
Center for Constitutional Rights, December 14, 2011
As President Obama said this afternoon that he would not veto the National Defense Authorization Act(NDAA), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) issued the following statement:
President Obama made a choice with chilling consequences today when he announced he would not veto the NDAA despite the lack of change to provisions of the bill that make it even more difficult to shut down the prison at Guantánamo and make indefinite military detention without trial a permanent feature of the U.S. legal system.
The NDAA essentially prevents President Obama from bringing men from Guantánamo to the U.S. for trial and severely curtails his ability to resettle them in third countries. More than half of the men currently detained at Guantánamo – 89 of the 171 – have been unanimously cleared by the CIA, FBI, NSC and Defense Department for transfer or release, yet they are stuck in the island prison, victims of politics.
Guantánamo, which the president once promised to close in the first year of his administration, is a global symbol of human rights violations, and indefinite detention of citizens and non-citizens alike without charge or trial violates the most fundamental principles of the rule of law. […]
There was a brief moment when civil libertarians were stunned to see President Barack Obama actually take a stand in favor of civil liberties after years of rolling back on basic rights of citizens and moving beyond the Bush Administration in building up the security state. Obama said that he would veto the defense bill that contained a horrific provision for the indefinite detention of American citizens. While many predicted it, Obama has now again betrayed the civil liberties community and lifted the threat of the veto. Americans will now be subject to indefinite detention without trial in federal courts in a measure supported by both Democrats and Republicans. It is a curious way to celebrate the 220th anniversary of the Bill of Rights.
This leaves Ron Paul as the only candidate in the presidential campaign fighting the bill and generally advocating civil liberties as a rallying point for his campaign. Paul offered another strong argument against the Patriot Act and other expansions of police powers in his last debate. He also noted that the Patriot Act provisions were long advocated before 9/11, which was used as an opportunity to expand police powers. Obama has […] has convinced many liberals to fight for an Administration that blocked torture prosecutions, expanded warrantless surveillance, continued military tribunals, killed Americans on the sole authority of the President, and other core violations of civil liberties.
The White House is saying that changes to the law made it unnecessary to veto the legislation. That spin is facially ridiculous. The changes were the inclusion of some meaningless rhetoric after key amendments protecting citizens were defeated. The provision merely states that nothing in the provisions could be construed to alter Americans’ legal rights. Since the Senate clearly views citizens are not just subject to indefinite detention but even execution without a trial, the change offers nothing but rhetoric to hide the harsh reality. The Administration and Democratic members are in full spin — using language designed to obscure the authority given to the military. The exemption for American citizens from the mandatory detention requirement (section 1032) is the screening language for the key section, 1031, which offers no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial.
At least Senator Lindsey Graham was honest when he said on the Senate floor that “1031, the statement of authority to detain, does apply to American citizens and it designates the world as the battlefield, including the homeland.”
I am not sure which is worse: the loss of core civil liberties or the almost mocking post hoc rationalization for abandoning principle. The Congress and the President have now completed a law that would have horrified the Framers. Indefinite detention of citizens is something that the Framers were intimately familiar with and expressly sought to bar in the Bill of Rights. […]
Even more distressing is the statement from [Democratic] sponsor Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee that “The language which precluded the application of Section 1031 to American citizens was in the bill that we originally approved … and the administration asked us to remove the language which says that U.S. citizens and lawful residents would not be subject to this section.”
Jonathan Turley is a constitutional scholar at George Washington University. In 2011, Professor Turley filed a challenge to the Libyan War on behalf of ten members of Congress. Among his current cases, Professor Turley represents Dr. Ali Al-Timimi and Dr. Sami Al-Arian, both targets of the U.S. war of terrorism. Reprinted from jonathanturley.org
National Defense Authorization Act
Subtitle D — Detainee Matters
Subtitle D – Detainee Matters [TOP]