If I told you that U.S. president Obama can and will arrest, detain, and even execute U.S. citizens without “indictment of a Grand Jury”, you would probably think I am a conspiracy theory nut case. If I told you that there is nothing the courts can do about it, you’d probably think I were speaking about some secret government plot. The scariest part of this tail is that I am not speaking about a secret government conspiracy at all. Despite the constitutional safeguards against such conduct, the executive branch of the U.S. government is not only doing these things right out in the open, it is passing laws which make such actions superficially legal.
Earlier, we warned our readers that martial law was about to be effectively imposed in the United States (See: Martial Law Declared in the United States). If the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) were passed, that U.S. citizens could be arrested anywhere in the world (including within the United States) and held indefinitely without a trial. We pointed out that if NDAA were made law, that the right of right to habeas corpus was suspended.
Habeas Corpus literally means “you may have the body” (1). In the United States, it is one of the most basic civil rights. At its essence, a writ of Habeas Corpus is a demand that the government demonstrate how it is that a person has been legally detained. Without that right, a person may be arrested and held indefinitely without ever having his case heard by a court or jury of his peers. Without the right to habeas corpus, several sections of the Constitution of the United States of America and its amendments become null and void.
In the United States, the act of suspending the right to habeas corpus is broader than an attack on the civil rights of U.S. citizens; it is an attack on the foundation of that country. Like many other free nations, the basic structure of government includes a system of checks and balances exist called the “Separation of Powers”. In the United States, three branches of government exist which each exert authority on the other. In the United States, those three branches are the Legislative (Congress), Executive (President), and the Judicial (Courts). Suspending habeas corpus, severely limits the Judicial branch’s ability to check and balance the executive branch. Should NDAA be signed into law, the president of the United States could order a US citizen to be arrested and held indefinitely. Without habeas corpus, the Judicial branch (the courts) cannot demand the Executive branch (the president) show that a detention was legal.
On December 31, 2011 CNN reported that U.S. President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law (3). Although the executive branch may now order the arrest and indefinite detention of U.S. citizens without the constitutional right to a grand jury, we have the current president’s promise that he will not use those new powers against U.S. citizens.
“I want to clarify that my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens,” – US president Obama quoted by CNN (3)
U.S. President Obama’s promise might be believed if he had not previously made the unilateral decision to put U.S. citizens to death without so much as a grand jury entitlement. While many are aware of the drone attack which killed U.S. Citizen Anwar Al-Awlaki for suspected support of terrorists (4), few question how it was that the President of the United States can order the death of a U.S. citizen. Even less people are even aware that at least two other U.S. citizens were put to death after Al-Awlaki and that each of those deaths was ordered by President Obama without so much as a grand jury indictment.
“CIA and military strikes this fall killed three U.S. citizens, two of whom were suspected al-Qaida operatives.” – Arizona Daily Star (5)
Although one can argue that the executions of these U.S. citizens and even the “Capture or Kill List” that the United States now maintains is necessary for the security of a free nation, the decision on who it is that must die should not rest in the hands of one person or one branch of government. This is why the framers of the U.S. Constitution not only incorporated a system of checks and balances; they specifically forbad actions like these executions from being decided by the government itself.
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” – The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution (6)
It is a “Grand Jury” who has the right to order a person to stand trial for a “capital, or otherwise infamous crime” and it is a jury who decides guilty and punishment. While one might argue the cases arose “in the land or naval forces”, we are not speaking about a battlefield or even with military involvement. We are speaking about the CIA following the orders of the president to execute U.S. citizens. While it might well be that the world is better off without those who have been executed, it is the very core of a free nation to depend on the people (the 99%) for such decisions rather than one person (the 1%) or even one branch of government.
Make no mistake, although President Obama has promised he will not use the authority granted by the NDAA against U.S. citizens, he has already done just the opposite before he signed NDAA into law. If the actions of the U.S. government do not scare you, you should at a very minimum be afraid of whatever it is that has caused that government to believe these actions are required.
- Habeas Corpus explained at Wikipedia.
- Separation of Powers explained at Wikipedia.
- CNN: Obama signs defense bill ‘with reservations’
- Mediaite: US Citizen And Top Terrorist Suspect Anwar Al-Awlaki Killed In Drone Attack
- Arizona Daily Star: Under Obama, a huge rise in drone strikes
- The Fifth Amendment at Wikipedia
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