Tennesseans believe they are free and equal, thanks to the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. But if our government ignores those sacred documents, are we really free and equal?
I woke up on a sunny New Year’s Day morning with a positive attitude and bright hopes for the future. Then to my shock and dismay I learned that President Obama had just signed the National Defense Authorization Act into law. With a whisk of his presumptuous pen, he whisked away the most basic human rights and freedoms of 300 million Americans. The NDAA seems to allow American citizens to be arrested without charges, then transferred to foreign prisons where they can be held indefinitely without hearings or trials.
The NDAA is just the latest dangerous gambit of politicians who use fears of terrorism and the buzzword “security” to justify what can never be justified: robbing American citizens of their Constitutional rights. It’s easy enough to understand what our “protectors” have been doing, if we examine the facts.
As reported by Reuters on Oct. 5, an American citizen, Anwar al-Awlaki, was targeted for extrajudicial murder via a “kill or capture list” created by a “secretive panel of senior government officials.” Awlaki was later killed by a CIA drone strike in Yemen along with another American citizen, a magazine editor named Samir Khan. According to government officials, “Khan was in the wrong place at the wrong time.” The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, concurred, calling Khan’s death “collateral.”
According to Reuters, the secret panel is a subset of the White House's National Security Council. Ruppersberger explained how it works to reporters: the NSC “does the investigation, they have lawyers, they review, they look at the situation, you have input from the military, and also, we make sure that we follow international law.” But what about following the Constitution, which gives Americans the right to due process before they’re imprisoned for life, or executed?
Ironically, after Obama sternly criticized the Bush administration for issuing legal memos justifying torture, his own administration upped the ante by endorsing the extrajudicial capture and killing of American citizens without due process.
Yes, al-Awlaki was fiercely critical of our government, but so are many freedom-loving American peace activists who question the wisdom and justice of both wars. What if al-Awlaki was more right than wrong? Even if he was wrong, what about his right to speak freely and dissent, as an American citizen?
According to Reuters, “officials acknowledged that some of the intelligence purporting to show Awlaki's hands-on role in plotting attacks was patchy.” Should our government and military go around murdering American citizens on hearsay?
The NDAA, which nullifies (or at least ignores) critical parts of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, seems eerily similar to certain acts used by the Nazis to imprison ordinary German citizens indefinitely or execute them, based on suspicion alone, without ever bringing forth charges or having a fair trial.