Friday, January 6, 2012

Welcome to the Police State

Well, so Congress has passed, and President Obama has signed, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which among other things deals a mortal blow to the right of habeas corpus. Now if a US citizen is suspected of sympathizing with terrorism, the US military can apprehend them, on American soil or anywhere around the world, and hold them indefinitely... without charges, without trial, without legal recourse. As Senator Lindsey Graham infamously put it, "And when they say, 'I want my lawyer,' you tell them, 'Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer.'"

Gee, what could possibly go wrong?

I remember here in my neck of the words, there was a stretch of several years following 9/11 when any time you read the court records in the local paper, it seemed at least half the cases at the county courthouse included a peculiar criminal charge: "making terroristic threats." It didn't matter what the person had initially been arrested for, this additional charge would be tacked on. Resisting an officer and making terroristic threats. Causing a domestic disturbance and making terroristic threats. Disorderly conduct and making terroristic threats.

Obviously a law initially passed for use against terrorism was now being applied to any staggering drunk who bellowed at the police, "You get your hands off me or I'll knock your block off!"

Righto: public intoxication and making terroristic threats.

And once the NDAA starts getting applied with similar elasticity, when the bellicose drunk or the political protester or the person who wrote an angry letter to the editor says "I want my lawyer," you tell them, "Shut up, you don't get a lawyer."

Public intoxication and sympathizing with terrorism. Taking part in a protest march and sympathizing with terrorism. Writing an angry letter to the editor and sympathizing with terrorism. As the quotable Senator Graham put it, "The homeland is part of the battlefield and people can be held without trial whether an American citizen or not."

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