New Military Detention Powers Threaten Basic Rights
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New Military Detention Powers Threaten Basic Rights

September 29, 2019


PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network.
I’m Paul Jay in Washington. President Obama is expected any day to sign the 2012 National
Defense Authorization Act, which amongst other things authorizes spending of something over
$650 billion. There’s been very little debate about whether or not this much money should
be spent on the military, the whole posture of the U.S. military in 2012. But what there
has been some debate about–a little bit, at least–has been a specific provision in
this bill which seems to authorize the extraordinary powers of detention to the U.S. military.
Now to talk about all of this is David Swanson. David joins us from his home in Richmond,
Virginia. Thanks, David. DAVID SWANSON: Thank you. Charlottesville. JAY: Charlottesville. Sorry. I had you–moved
you. So let’s just go over again, quickly, the basic features of this amendment that
people are concerned about. SWANSON: Well, it fundamentally throws out
Article 3, Section 3 of the Constitution and amendments 4 through 8, the bulk of our Bill
of Rights. Out goes the right to a trial, a speedy trial, a trial by a jury of your
peers. You can–you meaning any human being, including U.S. legal residents–can be held,
imprisoned, indefinitely for life without trial by the president and by the military. JAY: So let’s–just to remind people what’s
in this, if I understand it correctly, if–I guess it’s the Secretary of Defense. Or is
it the Department of Justice? If you are deemed to be a supporter–not a militant or activist,
but–which, of course, is also included, but if you’re a supporter of al-Qaeda, the Taliban,
or associated forces, which is, I understand, not defined, you can be detained by the military
and held indefinitely. Go on. Have I got it right, David? SWANSON: Well, the problem is that you could
be anybody at all. You could be someone who was engaged in plotting terrorism. You could
be an actual traitor to the United States of America. You could be someone who had donated
money to a group that was associated with a group that was deemed terrorist. Or you
could be absolutely innocent of anything remotely related. The point is that you don’t get a
trial. This is on the basis of accusation alone. So, conceivably–and it doesn’t take
a wild imagination–you could be somebody’s political opponent and you could be imprisoned
for life without a trial. JAY: And if I understand it correctly, this
also applies to U.S. citizens. There was some question whether or not it did, but it seems
that it does. SWANSON: Well, the president, according to
Senator Carl Levin and others–and this has not been disputed by the White House–the
president asked that there be no exception for U.S. citizens or U.S. legal residents.
And a couple of amendments were voted down in the Senate that would have put that exception
in place. After passage of the bill, Senator Feinstein introduced legislation that has
quite a few cosponsors that would specifically do just that, carve out an exception for legal
residents of the United States, the other 95 percent of humanity be damned. So there
is no dispute (although you will find those Obama supporters who simply choose to deny
it) that this does indeed apply to everyone. And this is not a change in this president’s
policy, who has already asserted the right to imprison and to assassinate (and acted
on that power) U.S. citizens. JAY: Now, the politics of this is a little
strange. Apparently, the head of the FBI is against this legislation. The head of the
CIA is against this legislation. Apparently the secretary of defense has had some criticisms
of the legislation. There’s some–New York Times says even in the army’s not so happy
about the fact that they are now the only ones that are supposed to detain anyone charged
with terrorism. The FBI is not happy about it, ’cause it’s all being handed to the military.
And in a recent New York Times editorial, they called–they essentially say President
Obama’s caved on this. So there’s a lot of forces that are against this legislation,
yet it more or less sailed through the Senate and the House. SWANSON: Well, note that whenever President
George W. Bush did something that was wildly unpopular and unconstitutional, we said he
was energetically doing it to us. Whenever President Obama does the same sort of thing
and worse, we say he’s caving in to evil forces, because it couldn’t possibly be him. But look
at what happened. He threatened to veto [incompr.] his advisors not clearly and unambiguously
but very strongly threatened the possibility of a veto. And then there was the Senate’s
passage, and they again threatened to veto. And then there was a conference committee,
and they withdrew the threat of the veto. Now, what changed in the conference committee?
For one thing, they put in a little measure that gave the FBI the power to do its job
regardless of this bill. That had been missing, and the FBI, as you say, had been quite upset
about that. There are good and bad arguments for why that should in fact have been added
in there. And they made a little change to who would get to waive the use of military
tribunals in order to provide the president with what he calls flexibility and what the
authors of our Bill of Rights called tyranny. They switched from the secretary of defense,
in consultation with a number of other cabinet officials, to the president and the president
alone having the power to waive sending someone to a military tribunal. That is, he can pursue
his form of vigilante justice against someone outside of that forum. And that seemed to
satisfy the White House. This was not a veto threat over the elimination of our rights,
and we got our rights back, and the veto threat went away–that’s a mirage. JAY: Yeah, it seems that the only real threat
of veto had to do with some restriction on the rights of the president and not on the
rights of other citizens. SWANSON: That’s absolutely right. And that’s
why it’s very likely that we will also see an unconstitutional law altering signing statements,
when and if the president signs this into law. If he sees anything remaining in the
language that restricts his unlimited power in any way, he will announce his failure to
recognize that in a signing statement. JAY: Do you get any sense of why now? I mean,
this is–I mean, I would have understood the psychology of this piece of legislation five,
six, seven, eight years ago, but why now after all of this time? SWANSON: Well, this is not a leap from absolute
adherence to the Bill of Rights and standards of law to absolute defiance. This is one step
in a gradual process. This is a president who from the earliest months in office claimed
the right to imprison people without charge. He claimed that right standing in the national
archives in front of the Constitution, who has maintained the power to rendition people
to other countries where they might be tortured and abused, who has issued an executive order
claiming the right to imprison people without trial, who has in fact asserted the power
to assassinate anyone, including U.S. citizens, and acted on it. So what this does is to codify
into law this understanding that has developed primarily under presidents Clinton, Bush,
and Obama that these powers belong to a president. And this is a bill that goes so far as to
say this doesn’t alter existing law in any way. Well, then, why pass it at all? Because
it does clarify specific abuses as being recognized in detail by the United States Congress in
law. JAY: And I guess the other important part
of this is that, first of all, the American military intelligence apparatus is bigger,
if I understand it correctly, than all the other intelligence apparatuses put together–CIA,
FBI. Military intelligence is far larger. And now it’s–also seems to give the military
intelligence a role on American soil, including, as we said, U.S. citizens, and including being
the only agency now that’s supposed to detain people. It’s an extraordinary change in things,
but with very little attention in mainstream media. It’s barely being talked about. SWANSON: Oh, this is what is absolutely incredible,
if predictable. When the two big political parties agree on something, no matter how
outrageous it might be, it’s not news. It’s only when there’s a disagreement between them
that it’s news. And you have so many individuals and organizations that will not oppose something
if a Democratic president is for it, and so many others that will not oppose something
if a Republican House of Representatives is for it. JAY: Now, there are people that are kind of
hitting the streets about this. I saw some news about the Occupy Tampa is doing something.
Did you get a–what other kind of opposition is there to this legislation? SWANSON: Well, I work for RootsAction.org,
which is very active against this. The ACLU is to be applauded for its absolutely principled
opposition to this. Both of those groups are demanding a veto. And there are all kinds
of local organizations on board with that. But there are many, many missing, including
the bulk of those organizations that tend to take their directions from the Democratic
Party and who without a doubt would be opposing this very, very passionately were the president
at this moment a Republican, which is incredibly crazy, in that these powers will be passed
on to every following president, regardless of which party he or she comes from. JAY: I guess it should be noted some of the
libertarians in the Republican Party did oppose this. Rand Paul spoke, I think, quite vigorously
against this legislation. SWANSON: Well, overwhelmingly, the senators
of both parties voted for it, although you had a handful of exceptions from each party.
And in the House, you had about 40-some Republicans vote no, including my congressman here in
southern Virginia, and you had the Democrats absolutely split, 93 to 93. So, you know,
giving your money and your effort to the Democratic Party now is exactly like buying a lottery
ticket. It doesn’t stand for one side or the other on this. JAY: Thanks for joining us, David. SWANSON: Thank you. JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real
News Network.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. hmm. this reminds me of Germany 1940s althought i wasnt alive i learnt about the rischstag (dont know about the spelling) German regime. and look what happened there!!!!

  2. Thank you for sharing this! It is bad news for America. But we need to hear the truth so we can know the truth and be set free. πŸ™‚

  3. What about the Green party? Why don't we all just step away from this car wreck of a Dem/Rep. system? Can anyone tell me why there shouldn't be a third party?

  4. @Joeybagadounuts08 The problem is in our type of democracy, the game is rigged against 3rd parties. If we had a representative democracy, 3rd parties could have a voice, but in our 18th century backwards democracy, it is impossible to win anymore as a 3rd party. This is why we need to change each party from the inside, such as voting for Ron Paul, who the GOP absolutely HATE.

  5. @unreal672003 Nah. Not most fascist. N. Korea takes that.

    We ARE, however, THE MOST FASCIST FIRST WORLD COUNTRY. THAT SUCKS.

    And dont blame the American man. Blame our shitty government, controlled by shitty bankers. There is little the average american can do. RON PAUL 2012!!

  6. @TheEidolon7 TELL IT LIKE IT IS BROTHER. AMERICA IS TYRANICAL. WE PROTEST LIKE IN OWS, AND THEY FUCKING SHOOT RUBBER AT US. FUCK THAT. AMericans are good people. Our rich banking government is the problem. RON PPAUL 2012!!

  7. @tito1894 SOPA IS SHIT. ITS TAKING AWAY OUR RIGHTS. WE NEED TO SUPPORT RON PAUL, WHO ALONG WITH GOOD COMPANIES LIKE GOOGLE, ARE ATTACKING SOPA. RON PAUL 2012!

  8. @jackvideodat Its spelled Reichstag, but yes, you our absolutely right! The establishment is tipping the scales so things like this will be possible in the future! We need to vote en masse for Ron Paul!

  9. @LordOrlock you don't even know what Fascism is! you use the word to describe authoritarian governments such as the one of red Korea. Fascism is extreme nationalism, the absolute love for one's nation and people; its is NOT the US's 'democratic' government run by wealthy individuals who only care about themselves and their own interests. Fascists usually seek the revival of a nation such as Mussolini seeking a new Roman Empire. Fascist governments AND communist ones have both been..

  10. @LordOrlock cont. have both been authoritarian. That does not mean that both Fascism and communism are the same or that communism is fascist it only means that they favour an authoritarian state. The US may be called authoritarian, but that does not make it fascist, saying so is the same as calling the US communist which is absolutely false!

  11. paul jay ask a very important question of "why now?" It's because of the coming economic melt down. When the financial crash happens people will finally take to the streets in droves and this bill allows them to be rounded up and detained without due process. Can you say "hello FEMA camps"? It all makes sense.

  12. @unreal672003 Great, youre a rascist? Jew hating nazi… Jews vote progressive. Republicans control congress. Your logic does not compute.

  13. @delgande I apologize, I was using the term more colloquially. I dont care much for super-accurate lexicon. I do apologize for offending your sensibilities. I was intending to say Authoritarian. Thank you for your correction!

  14. @BrotherWoody1 Is that why Ron was not present for the vote on this? Ron Think Social Security, public schools, and medicare are unconstitutional. Ron sucks. I am voting third party for president.

  15. @LordOrlock I apologize if I sounded angry, but people should not throw around words that they don't know the real meanings to.

  16. @unreal672003 Im fully aware that the government bends over backwards to help israel. Sorry, I get Zionist confused with judaism sometimes, my bad.

  17. The next news we'll get is that Washington resurrected (to employ) Marie Antoinnette, the guillotine extremist "leader" (balk) of historical France. Or, maybe I shouldn't say that, to avoid giving Washington any more "cute" ideas.
    Very good interview and, hopefully, every1'll learn what David Swanson says. It's sickening that many Dem. Party supporters are as blind or self-centered as David describes; neglecting or denying that the Dem. Party is guilty of more war crimes than the Repub. Party.

  18. @snappycatchy Mr Wizard seems possibly fitting when referring to Washington politics, I think. Wizard of Oz does, anyway.

  19. @captcrais101 Ron Paul says SS, public schools and medicare are unconstitutional; is this what you're saying? If so, then can you provide some links to supporting resources?
    If he believes these things, then I could never recommend supporting him, and this country would be all the more sick than what I thought it was.

  20. @wisdomtrek Heh, ya gotta appreciate'em. They're like "good" parents who want to "properly" discipline their "children", to give them "opportunities" for character development, ya know, for developing some spine, whether it's crooked or not, and crooked is what's aimed for. "Good" parents do this for their young'uns.
    Ya. Sure. Right. Whatever "ya" say.
    Washington believes for us, "shape up, or the govt will resurrect Marie Antoinnette". She was very affectionate with the guillotine. Loved it.

  21. @mikecorbeil read the preamble of the constitution and article one. Promote the general welfare and provide for the general welfare. They are constitutional. Schools are part of the commons just like police and fire department. So yes they are constitutional.

  22. @captcrais101 I haven't read the Preamble, but have read that the govt is to promote …, as you say; and it only makes complete sense that a govt should be governed in this manner. There can be private schools, but for govt to work to ensure …, as you say, public schools, etc., are required, and it's only HEALTHY that a society have this. Otherwise, we'ld have a govt that wants a dumb population.
    Unfortunately, it's the kind of govt we have today; counter-productive.

  23. I'd buy a ticket in a lottery where the odds were 50/50. That's apart from the fact you can check how your Rep voted, and get involved in the primary for a better candidate (and/or in anti-Gerrymandering legislation for your region, e.g if you're adamantly anti-Dem). This needs to be challenged and overturned. State authorized assassination without trial is obscene. Every level of your government that was involved in this needs to be held to account.

  24. @mikecorbeil rawstory com / rawreplay / 2011 / 05 / ron-paul-compares-social-security-and-medicare-to-slavery / See for yourself.

  25. A president with unlimited power is not a president. He's a tyrant. Even if he smiles a lot, is the first African-American to be elected to his office, says he loves the country, the people, whatever. None of that matters. He's an enemy to the USA's constitution and to the Bill of Rights. He's an enemy to anyone who wants due process. Why is this so difficult for people to see? The USA has now taken the first step toward its own demise: the legalized unlawful persecution of its own citizens.

  26. @unreal672003 I live in the US, the NDAA is FUCKED! This is so rediculous, held indefinitely WITHOUT trial!!!??? What the fuck is going on, how are all the news networks not screaming about this?!

  27. remember it's the government and the elites who run it, that ultimately determine what military decisions are made. not the people.

  28. absolutely, these guys already know who it is that pulls the strings for what ever is to be or not to be. Its the elite group of bastards who controls the banks and everything else, even Obama!

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