Monday, October 15, 2012

Two Choices, No Chance Of Freedom






Obama and Romney recently debated on national television about domestic issues. While the media lambasted Obama- and rightfully so- for doing such a subpar job; the debate mainly concerned economics and healthcare, not truly the full encompassment of domestic issues. The debate ignored immigration, gun control and several other issues. While both candidates made their positions known, with Obama seeming to emphasize the similarities between the two on issues such as Social Security, there went an unspoken truth: the fact that both candidates agree that they will not give you back your freedoms. At the end of the day, neither Obama nor Romney is going to end the police state that has occurred.

On domestic drones, both candidates are in complete agreement that the government should be able to spy on US citizens or apprehend them for ‘criminal’ activities. It was reported last December that

A US family has been arrested with the help of a Predator drone, after a search for a missing cow did not go to plan. By “drone” we do mean military reconnaissance and assault flying machine used by the US Army and the CIA, mostly abroad.

This is the first time in American history that an unmanned aircraft has been used to assist police in making an arrest on US soil. To be precise, this is the same Predator drone that the US army uses in military missions across Afghanistan, Pakistan and any other theater of US-inspired conflict.
The drone was called to the rescue when… six cows went missing in North Dakota. [1]

Now taking out the ridiculousness of the calling in a drone to look for cows and putting it aside, the story is quite serious as it is an example of how drones may be used in the future and that they will be tools of surveillance and oppression rather than just not being used at all. These drones will be being used as Big Brother’s eye in the sky and will be made to ensure that you and I don’t do anything that isn’t wanted by the government.

It is important to note that Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization law which allows for drones to be used domestically. [2] Thus, Obama himself is actively playing a part destroying our freedoms even further.

However, let’s take a step into our time machine and go back into 2001, not to long after the 9/11 attacks, when President Bush signed the Patriot Act.





Doesn’t that just sound so wonderful and great? So comforting? The government was going to protect us against the evils of terrorism and we were going to be safe. However, that turned out to be quite false.

The Patriot Act allowed the government to search and seize Americans' papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigation, jail Americans indefinitely without a trial, monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity, and monitor conversations between attorneys and clients in federal prisons and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes, as well as several other unconstitutional acts. [3]

There are several instances of the Patriot Act being used to assault citizens’ rights. In April of 2009 it was reported that a 16 year old by the name of Ashton Lundeby, was “being held on a criminal complaint that he made a bomb threat from his home on the night of Feb. 15” and from that the authorities came into Lundeby’s home and arrested him without a warrant. Lundeby’s mother said on the issue:

We have no rights under the Patriot Act to even defend them, because the Patriot Act basically supersedes the Constitution[.] It wasn't intended to drag your barely 16-year-old, 120-pound son out in the middle of the night on a charge that we can't even defend. [4] (emphasis added)

As we can see, rule of law was suspended in the name of so-called combating terrorism. However, the greatest irony of all of this is the fact that the Democrats, who so ardently attacked Bush while running for office and Obama, who also slammed Bush for the Patriot Act, renewed it in its entirety, with Obama saying that it was “an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat.” [5] Both Obama and the Democrats reveal themselves as hypocrites and liars, wanting the same police state as do the Republicans. Romney feels the exact same way about the Patriot Act as he recently stated.

"I can assure when I become president … I will not do things that interfere with our rights and our freedoms," Romney said, before saying he did support legislation like the Patriot Act that expanded the intelligence-gathering toolbox. [6] (emphasis added)

Looking through the contradictory statement, one can see that Romney supports the Patriot Act. And here I was, thinking that Republicans were for smaller government. But this support for the Patriot Act isn’t anything new from Romney as he has supported it since 2007.





Yep, that’s right folks. The greatest civil liberty Romney expects from his government is to keep him alive. This is nothing but another reminder that neither party cares about restoring of civil liberties.

But the story doesn’t end there. It gets worse.

Last year around midnight, Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which gives the President the power to indefinitely detain US citizens. However, before we go into that, let’s give some background to the situation.

When the NDAA first came up, Obama was quite wary of signing it, even going so far as threatening to veto it. Christian Science Monitor reported that the Obama administration “strongly object[ed]” to the indefinite detainment provision and stated that it would “raise serious and unsettled legal questions and would be inconsistent with the fundamental American principle that our military does not patrol our streets.” [7]

However, this “strong objection” did not stop him from signing the bill into law. The Washington Post stated on December 31st of last year that “President Obama expressed misgivings about several provisions of a sweeping defense bill he signed into law on Saturday, pledging that his administration will use broad discretion in interpreting the measure’s legal requirements to ensure that U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism are not detained indefinitely by the military.” The article goes on to quote the President saying

“I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists,” Obama said. “I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation.” [8]

Yet, the fact of the matter is that he signed a law into bill that would allow for the indefinite detention of US citizens. Don’t take my word for it, let’s go to Jonathan Turley who
  • Is the second most cited law professor in the country
  • Has worked as both the CBS and NBC legal analyst during national controversies
  • Is one of the top 10 lawyers handling military cases
  • Has served as a consultant on homeland security and constitutional issues
  • Is a frequent witness before the House and Senate on constitutional and statutory issues [9]
He stated on his blog about the supposed changes made to the NDAA to soothe citizens that

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 next section, 1031, which offers no exemption for American citizens from the authorization to use the military to indefinitely detain people without charge or trial. [10] (emphasis added)

There is currently some confusion as to whether or not the provision in the bill that allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens is still on the books. In June, a judge ruling the NDAA unconstitutional [11], however, it was reported by Antiwar.com on October 3rd that “A federal appeals court of three Obama-appointed judges has rejected a previous ruling barring the government from enforcing the indefinite detention provisions in a recent national defense bill” [12] and that same federal appeals court granted a stay on the case.

Please note, a “stay” means that there is a “suspension of the case’s proceedings.” Thus this means that the issue is on hold, however, in the mean while Obama can keep on detaining US citizens as he pleases. Ironic isn’t it? Obama said that he had a “strong objection” to the bill due to the provision in question; however, he is currently fighting to maintain that provision in the bill.

Romney isn’t much better as it was reported on October 10th that he sidestepped questions on the NDAA stating that he “didn’t have enough information on the law” and that “when it comes to the issue of indefinite detention he would try to strike a balance between protecting personal liberties and protecting the nation from terrorist attacks.” [13] This is quite surprising. How could he not have enough information on such a crucial issue? Romney, a Republican who is in favor of small government wouldn’t have enough information about something which you could use to utter cripple your opponent? 

The final nail in the coffin for both candidates is that they are both in favor of killing US citizens, as can be seen in the case of Anwar al-Awlaki, a member of Al Qaeda that was assassinated last year.

Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in September last year. It is important to note that Awlaki was never actually accused of being involved in any terrorist acts [14], just inciting them and while that is horrid, it does not change the fact that he was a US citizen at the time of his death. Joshua Keating of Foreignpolicy.com wrote on the matter:

It was once possible to lose one's U.S. citizenship by fighting in another country's army against the United States -- whether Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula counts as an army is another question -- but as the legal blog Opinion Juris explained on Twitter this morning, the Supreme Court has found that [killing Awlaki was] unconstitutional under the 14th amendment. Ironically, the virulently anti-Semitic cleric's citizenship was protected by a case that involved a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen fighting to keep his U.S. citizenship after voting in an Israeli election.

In order to lose his citizenship, it must be shown that the U.S. citizen joined the foreign military or swore allegiance to another state "with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality" -- a very tough standard. There's no evidence that Awlaki ever formally renounced his U.S. citizenship. [..] [T]he Obama administration never denied Awlaki's citizenship when it targeted him for assassination. [15] (emphasis added)

However, some argued that it was a legal killing, yet it eventually came out that al-Awlaki’s death was justified by a secret memo. The New York Times states that this secret memo found that it would be legal to kill Awlaki “only if it were not feasible to take him alive, according to people who have read the document” and that the memo supposedly

provided the justification for acting despite an executive order banning assassinations, a federal law against murder, protections in the Bill of Rights and various strictures of the international laws of war, according to people familiar with the analysis. The memo, however, was narrowly drawn to the specifics of Mr. Awlaki’s case and did not establish a broad new legal doctrine to permit the targeted killing of any Americans believed to pose a terrorist threat. [16]

Oh yes, the case was specific to Awlaki, never could it ever be used to create a legal precedent to kill US citizens. However, it seems that some people such as Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, have a different opinion on the matter. Jaffer made a statement on the same day Awlaki was killed. He stated that “As we’ve seen today, it’s a program under which U.S. citizens far from any battlefield can be executed by their own government without judicial process and on the basis of standards and evidence that are secret.” [17]

Romney, too, is a fan of killing US citizens. He stated back in 2011 that he "absolutely" would have made the same call as Mr. Obama, going on to say

"In this case, this is an individual who had aligned himself with a -- with a group that declared war on the United States of America. And if there's someone that's going to join with a group like al Qaeda that declares war on America, and we're in a -- in a war with that entity, then, of course, anyone who is bearing arms with that entity is fair game for the United States of America.” [18]

This statement blatantly ignores the aforementioned information which clearly states that Awlaki was still, legally speaking, a US citizen as the time of his death and thus still had the rights of a US citizen. 

Unfortunately, whether we vote for Obamney or Rombama, the outcome for our civil liberties will be the same- we aren’t getting them back.


Endnotes


1: “US Farm Drama: Predator Drone Assists In Arrest,” Russia Today, December 12, 2011 (http://rt.com/news/predator-drone-us-arrest-583/)


2:  Cal Thomas and Bob Beckel, “Column: Domestic use of drones? Bad idea,” USA Today, March 30, 2012 (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-05-30/domestic-drones-privacy-faa-uavs/55288498/1)


3: Seattle Community Network, Patriot Act vs. Constitution, http://www.scn.org/ccapa/pa-vs-const.html


4: “Mom says Patriot Act stripped son of due process,” WRAL, April 29, 2009 (http://www.wral.com/news/local/story/5049867/)


5: Jim Abrams, “Patriot Act Extension Signed By Obama,” Huffington Post, May 27, 2011 (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/27/patriot-act-extension-signed-obama-autopen_n_867851.html)


6: Justin Sink and Ben Geman, “Romney looks to use his debate momentum to blunt Obama in Ohio,” The Hill, October 10, 2012 (http://thehill.com/blogs/e2-wire/e2-wire/261263-romney-seeks-to-use-debate-boost-to-blunt-obama-in-ohio)


7:  Brad Knickerbocker, Guant├ínamo for US citizens? Senate bill raises questions,” Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 2011 (http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2011/1203/Guantanamo-for-US-citizens-Senate-bill-raises-questions)


8: David Nakamura, “Obama signs defense bill, pledges to maintain legal rights of U.S. citizens,” Washington Post, December 31, 2011 (http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/obama-signs-defense-bill-pledges-to-maintain-legal-rights-of-terror-suspects/2011/12/31/gIQATzbkSP_story.html)


9: George Washington University, Jonathan Turley, http://www.law.gwu.edu/faculty/profile.aspx?id=1738


10: Jonathan Turley, Final Curtain: Obama Signs Indefinite Detention of Citizens Into Law As Final Act of 2011,” Jonathan Turley, January 2, 2012 (http://jonathanturley.org/2012/01/02/final-curtain-obama-signs-indefinite-detention-of-citizens-into-law-as-final-act-of-2011/)


11: “NDAA unconstitutional: Federal judge bans Obama from indefinitely detaining Americans,” Russia Today, June 7, 2012 (http://rt.com/usa/news/ndaa-judge-obama-forrest-295/)


12: John Glaser, “Appeals Court Restores NDAA’s Indefinite Detention Provisions,” Antiwar, October 3, 2012 (http://news.antiwar.com/2012/10/03/appeals-court-restores-ndaas-indefinite-detention-provisions/)


13: Seth McLaughlin, “Romney sidesteps questions on detaining US citizens,” Washington Times, October 10, 2012 (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/oct/10/romney-sidesteps-questions-guantanamo/)


14: Brian Ross and Lee Ferran, “How Anwar Al-Awlaki Inspired Terror From Across the Globe,” ABC News,  September 30, 2011 (http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/anwar-al-awlaki-inspired-terror/story?id=14643383#.UHzCcFQfq25)


15: Joshua Keating, “Was Anwar al-Awlaki still a U.S. citizen?,” Foreign Policy, September 30, 2011 (http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/09/30/was_anwar_al_awlaki_still_a_us_citizen)


16: Charlie Savage, “Secret US Memo Made Legal Case to Kill A Citizen,” New York Times, October 8, 2011 (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/09/world/middleeast/secret-us-memo-made-legal-case-to-kill-a-citizen.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&)


17: Sal Gentile, “ACLU criticizes killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, calling it a ‘dangerous’ precedent,” PBS, September 30, 2011 (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/the-daily-need/aclu-criticizes-killing-of-anwar-al-awlaki-a-u-s-citizen-calling-it-a-dangerous-precedent/11813/)


18: Corbett B. Daly, “Gingrich, Romney back Obama killing American accused of turning on U.S.,” CBS  News,  November 12,  2011 (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57323700-503544/gingrich-romney-back-obama-killing-american-accused-of-turning-on-u.s/)

Monday, October 8, 2012

Turkish Intervention In Syria?





It has been reported recently that Turkey is firing artillery shells into northern Syria due to a mortar attack. The situation is quite tense and could potentially lead the way for a Turkish intervention into Syria.

On October 3rd, the BBC reported that “Turkey has renewed firing at targets inside Syria after two women and three children were killed by shelling from across the border on Wednesday.”[1] This was quickly reported in the media with people immediately blaming the Assad government. However, the New York Times noted that “It was unknown whether the mortar shells were fired by Syrian government forces or rebels fighting to topple the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The Turkish response seemed to assume that the Syrian government was responsible.[2] (emphasis added) Thus, no one actually seems to know exactly who fired the mortars. The situation is quite murky as Turkey has actively been aiding the rebels[3], however, the Assad regime has been so busy battling the rebels that it is doubtful if they would have time to go and attack Turkey much less the interest to do such a thing.

This situation could potentially lead to a Turkish intervention. On October 4th, Democracy Now reported Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, stating

There is definitely a response to [the attack] in international law. Turkey is a NATO member. Certain NATO treaty articles bring about certain responsibilities when one of its members is attacked. We are not blinded by rage, but we will protect our rights to the end in the face of such an attack on our soil that killed our people.[4] (emphasis added)

Without a doubt, the “certain NATO treaty article” that Arinc is referring to is Article Five in which it states that an attack on one member nation shall be treated as an attack on all member nations.

The Turks seem to want intervention as the BBC reported that “The Turkish parliament is discussing authorising troops to cross into Syria. But government sources say Turkey is not planning to declare war on Syria”[5] and in late September,

Turkey's Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called again for the establishment of safe zones for refugees in northern Syria - which would take a considerable military operation.
Mr Davutoglu would not be drawn on the fact that inserting a military force into Syria to establish a safe zone would be an act of war.[6] (emphasis added)

However, this brings up question: Why would Turkey even want to intervene into Syria? Taking out Assad would allow for Turkey to “establish [its] credentials as the new power of the Middle East” and “allow it to reshape to its satisfaction a neighbour whose rebellious Kurds are a source of constant concern to its own security.”[7] It must also be realized that if an intervention does occur and Turkey/NATO wins, then it will pave the road for a war with Iran, as Iran’s main ally will be out of the picture.

Yet, Turkey may not even have to consult with NATO- or anyone for that matter- about intervening in Syria as a legal path for intervention may already be available. According to the Adana Agreement, signed between Turkey and Syria on October 20, 1998, “Turkey has the ability to classify the violent crackdown on the opposition by the Bashar al-Assad government and the ensuing refugee crisis as a threat to the ‘security and stability of Turkey.’”[8] Thus, the Turkish government could use this provision of the Adana Agreement in conjunction with the recent mortar attack and claim that ongoing situation is threatening the “security and stability of Turkey” and begin sending military units into Syria.  

The clock is ticking and only time will tell whether the intervention will take place.



Endnotes

[1] “Turkey hits targets inside Syria after border deaths,” BBC, October 4, 2012 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19822253)

[2] Tim Arango, Anne Barnard, “Turkey Strikes Back After Syrian Shelling Kills 5 Civilians,” New York Times, October 3, 2012 (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/04/world/middleeast/syria.html?_r=2&smid=tw-share&)

[3] “Turkey sets up secret base to bring aid to Syria rebels, sources say,” Haaretz, July 27, 2012 (http://www.haaretz.com/news/middle-east/turkey-sets-up-secret-base-to-bring-aid-to-syria-rebels-sources-say-1.454107)

[4] “Turkey Launches Strikes in Syria After Deadly Bombing,” Democracy Now, October 4, 2012 (http://www.democracynow.org/2012/10/4/headlines#1042)

[5] BBC, October 4, 2012

[6] Jeremy Bowen, “Turkey: Risk worth taking for Syria safe zones,” BBC, September 27, 2012 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19753795)

[7] Richard Spencer, “Analysis: could Turkey's decision to shell Syria mean intervention is on its way?,” Telegraph, October 4, 2012 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9586515/Analysis-could-Turkeys-decision-to-shell-Syria-mean-intervention-is-on-its-way.html)

[8] “Adana agreement paves legal path for Turkish intervention in Syria,” Today’s Zaman, April 9, 2012 (http://www.todayszaman.com/news-276894-adana-agreement-paves-legal-path-for-turkish-intervention-in-syria.html)