By Robert Folsom | September 24, 2012
Below I discuss the recent legal back & forth over a certain authorization in a 565-page government document. Trust me, I know how tedious that sounds …
…. So please read on only if it would disturb you to learn that the Federal Government has likely given itself the power to deny habeas corpus to American citizens suspected of a crime. (Habeas corpus protection means a citizen cannot be held in custody without charge. The phrase is in the U.S. Constitution; the right itself dates from the Magna Carta in 1215).
On Dec. 2011, Congress passed The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 — a.k.a. the Defense Budget. And deep within that bill — Title X, Subtitle D, Sec. 1021 — is the authorization for “Counterterrorism.”
Numerous civil rights watchdog groups protested, saying the bill’s language will “…authorize the U.S. military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial civilians, including American citizens, anywhere in the world.”
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and war correspondent Chris Hedges brought a case against the counterterrorism provision, claiming the language was so broad and vague that it
“chilled [reporters’] right to free speech by creating a basis to fear that they might be placed in military detention on the basis of their activities.”
Fast forward to this month (Sept. 12) when, a U.S. District Court Judge issued a 112-page opinion that barred the government from relying on the law to detain anyone without trial. The judge explicitly made the injunction permanent…
… That is until last week (Sept. 17), when an appeals court judge granted the Obama administration’s request for an “emergency” stay of the injunction. A panel of judges will take up case on Sept. 28.
Why would the government curtail a right that’s older than the Constitution — and then quickly appeal a court ruling which upheld that same right?
Well, there was the Sept. 12 FBI/Homeland Security “Joint Intelligence Bulletin.” According to ABC News, the bulletin warned of “Violence in America Over Anti-Islamic Movie,” and urged “faith-based organizations to promptly report suspicious activities that could indicate pre-operational plotting…”
In turn, one of the attorneys arguing against the emergency stay to speculate that the government will use the counterterrorism law as “a tool to round up would-be Islamic protesters before they can launch any protest, violent or otherwise.”
Yet there’s a bigger answer to the “Why?” question, especially “Why Now?” That answer is Social Mood. This episode is part of dramatic battle between authoritarians and antiauthoritarians. Stay tuned.
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Andrea Dibben contributed research.