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home : opinions : columns September 14, 2014

1/17/2012 10:09:00 PM
Column: Terrorism bill is as un-American as it gets
Online references
Libertarians, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the Pima County GOP committee object to it here.

The Virginia Tea Party objects to it here.

The Arizona Tea Party called for a protest here.

The ACLU objects to it here.

Sen. Graham, "Shut up" quote is here.

Tenth Amendment Center quotes Sen. Rand Paul here, on the senate floor asking Sen. McCain if indefinite military detention could apply to US citizens and McCain affirms it could.

Tom Cantlon
Courier Columnist

"Shut up! You don't get a lawyer!" That is a quote from Mr. Graham, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., regarding what we should say to U.S. citizens who participate in terrorism.

Shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration seemed quick to infringe rights while looking for leads on terrorism. I raised a fuss about it in columns then. It is even more discouraging now. I can't say, "Well, if we had a president from a party that's supposed to be more respectful of these issues then ..." Oh wait. We already do.

Congress just passed a national defense bill which had parts added to it about the military's ability to hold terrorism suspects. Our own Sen. McCain was one of the authors of these additions. Whether this extends beyond what was already law, or whether existing law already allows the secret, indefinite holding of suspects including U.S. citizens on U.S. soil, is hotly debated by knowledgeable people. Sen. McCain has been quoted indicating he supports this kind of detention.

The Occupy Prescott group announced plans to protest it Tuesday afternoon. That's after the deadline for this column so I can only assume that occurred. The issue has raised protests from all quarters. Democrats split on votes for the bill. Some GOP members objected. Tea Party favorite Sen. Rand Paul objected. Various Tea Party and Occupy groups have come out against it.

The president evidently thinks the language allows for such detention because at first he threatened to veto it, then he signed it while objecting to that part and saying he won't use that part of the law. That gives us no reassurance about what some future president will do, though.

The language of the law says the military can do this and seems to make no distinction whether a person is a U.S. citizen or on U.S. soil. It also says they can be held "under the law of war without trial until the end of hostilities." Of course in dealing with terrorism there is no "end of hostilities." In the midst of battle people who are apparently the enemy are taken prisoner and it gets sorted out later. In the long timelines of dealing with terror though, and with our own citizens, there is no reason not to sort it out almost immediately.

The issue of citizens of other countries in our custody, and those who are captured in actual war, require other considerations and a wider range of end results. This controversy is about U.S. citizens in U.S. custody who were not picked up in the heat of battle. The Constitution reaffirms what is to happen simply and clearly; they get due process, openly carried out, and if a case can't be proved to a reasonable standard, then they are free citizens.

So far it has worked out, if slowly. Jose Padilla is a U.S. citizen who was held secretly for a long time before his detention was revealed. The Bush administration planned to handle it all outside of the normal legal process, saw that it was going to be challenged before the Supreme Court, and moved Padilla to normal court to avoid that battle. That's the only case so far. That we know of. It left the issue unresolved.

How did we get to such ambiguity in our law? How did we come to have senior senators, one a former POW, making such basic constitutional errors? Congress needs to pass, and the president sign, a law confirming that the Bill of Rights is still honored and remove even the appearance of our tolerating this ambiguity.

Mr. Graham's not wanting to grant due process has an assumption in it, a mistake, which the original proponents of the Bill of Rights understood. Mr. Graham assumes this would only apply to U.S. citizens who have become terrorists. But what if they're only accused of being terrorists? What if it's just an overzealous investigator, perhaps combined with an informant who wants to gain points, or get a personal enemy hauled away? What if a powerful person simply wants to make someone disappear? What if it's just a case of honest mistaken identify? What if it's Mr. Graham himself? A senator is likely to find his way out of such a mess, but the law isn't supposed to work just for the well-connected. What if he is secretly picked up and held, and pounds on the table and insists he's innocent and he knows his rights and confidently declares they can't do this in this country?

You already know the answer he'd get, right? "Shut up! You don't get a lawyer!"

Tom Cantlon is a longtime local resident, business owner and writer. Contact him at TomCantlon@TomCantlon.com.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012
Article comment by: sos s

One person could have vetoed the whole thing but he liked it and signed it into law. Obama.

Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012
Article comment by: Kathy Svendsen

Instead of attacking Tom Cantlon and each other, why don't you join the Occupy Prescott group to demonstrate your anger at NDAA. They meet at noon on Saturdays at the Prescott courthouse.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

Tom C is a Progressive, Tom B is a Conservative, O.P. Naso is freaky smart and I cannot spell. These obvious and quite entertaining facts are meaningless. Once we are long forgotten the NDAA will still be here unless we prioritize now.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Whirled Peas

Looking ahead, for your children and their children, incarceration rates in this country will go down!

Happy day, it was our government turned it around. No knowledge of or record of, would naturally make incarceration rates decline:)

Catch 22

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: He doth protest (waaaaay) too much

Can I get a word count? Has Cantlon actually written more in the "comments" section than all the rest of the other posters combined? It is a rather pathetic display indeed. What's up with that? He refuses to admit exactly what he did in his column...exactly what numerous people here have proven that he did. He might be fooling a few people. But I doubt very many.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Hokas Pokas

In general I agree with you on this issue (that didn't hurt much). I'm not going to pile on, but Obama did sign it, although he objected. But, that's kind of like voting for a bill then voting against it. And I'm not a big fan of the performance of Sen. McCain over the last few years either. It's too bad he won the last election.

Not to change the subject but there are a couple of other bills winding there way through the federal legislature that will also effect our freedoms. I am sure you know what they are, but for the benefit of others they are: "Stop Online Piracy Act" (H.R. 3261) and "Protect IP Act" (S. 968). Both these bills attempt to restrict certain uses of the internet.

Again, the federal government is going too far. This is what big, bloated government bureaucracies do.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Jasmine Tea

Mr., Cantlon
I disagree with you on a variety of subjects… however this is not one of them. I think you did your best to point out the glaring faults of our own Senator(s) especially McCain. He is truly part of the “problem” establishment politicians in D.C.
Things happen for a reason though, I have contacted McCain on several issues, and the response I received was enough for me to know that they do not view the taxpayer as intelligent or ultimately their “employer”.

They respond to their “Industrial Military Complex” masters and are only concerned about retaining power over the masses.
Bills like this are evidence to me that they know their gig is just about up, and they are desperate in their actions… all based on fear.

Decisions based in fear and desperation rarely turn out well.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Cantlon

To a Quick Couple, no actually I was trying to put the focus back on the issue. Rather than people spending time writing about whether I presented this correctly, I hope they are spending at least as much time doing something to try to push for change of these unconstitutional laws. Likewise to supportive commenters, we all need to push back at this from all sides. To those with constructive criticism, your input is duly noted.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Whirled Peas

Being a bleeding heart liberal while also owning and carrying a gun, I find myself on both sides of the proverbial fence on many occasions. What I am unwaveringly for is the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution.
Nixon was the first president to begin the war with the War on Drugs. This war began the erosion of our once inalienable rights. The War on Terror, which the NDAA must be construed a part and with the extension of the Patriot Act is the open declaration of War On The American People by our government.
I am not a Gosar fan, but he did vote honorably (against) in my opinion. Those shortsighted individuals on both sides of the aisle who voted for this, including our president, should be held in contempt by every American.
This country incarcerates more individuals than ANY country, with this law we can expect in the future, more incarceration with no rights and perhaps no knowledge of those incarcerated. What would George Washington, Jefferson, Franklin and Monroe think? I think they would be ... off and with good reason.
Talk of repeal of this law is futile, our only hope now is the Supreme Court. Don't hold your breath. Time to join the ACLU? Maybe.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: A Quick Couple of Question

Mr. Cantlon: if people posting opinions here are "wasting their breath", are not you doing the same? Or is it different just because it is you? I mean I'm all about having an ego but WOW.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Bowden

To @Tom Bowden: Yeah, heaven forbid I annoy some anonymous internet commando that is afraid to identify themself, and elected themself the arbiter of who can post, and how often. That will keep me up tonight. PS I was taking Obama at his word, as provided by Tom, maybe you should read the article.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: @Come On Now

Occupy knows there are millions of us because we are connected online and communicate constantly. The media has no idea, but the government sure does because they are monitoring us.

It was in the news this week that through a Freedom of Information Request that Homeland Security had awarded General Dynamics an $11 million contract to monitor online comments. They call it 'Situational Awareness'. Facebook, Twitter, Huffington Post, Drudge Report, New York Times, and many more websites were analyzed specifically for comments made about the government. Guess what movement is discussing the government these days? Hint: It's not the Tea Party, who seems to have gone strangely silent. They're too busy trying to decide if it's Rick or Rick or Mitt or Newt. I don't know why they don't like Ron. He's seems like the most patriotic of all.

Just thought you might like to know there is more going on than you might realize and Big Brother knows all about it.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: @Tom Bowden

Hey Tom Bowden, don't you have anything to contribute to the issue we're discussing, or is all you can think of is to keep harping on Tom Cantlon? I think we ALL know the answer by now.

By the way, I happen to agree with you that he went pretty easy on Obama compared to what most of us would say, but hey, he is trying to not offend the Democrats too much who worship their Warlord Obama.

But you did even worse by saying McCain 'did what he thought was right but Obama didn't'. What makes you think that Obama didn't do what HE thought was right? Are you some kind of mind reader?

Anyway, Cantlon can't change his column after it is written, and you have make your point several times, so stop beating a dead horse. It's annoying.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Republicans & Democrats, TEA and Occupy

Do you not see the power "We the People" could have if we would just stick it out together on the things we agree upon?
--This ADAA bill.
--Taxes for the Middle Class are too high.
--Spending needs reduced: lets find some areas we can agree upon. Hint: it sure isn't Social Security
--SOME regulations PURPOSELY hurt small business: let's find the ones that do and get rid of them.
This is just what I can come up with off the top of my head.
If we sat down with the intention of fixing rather than fighting we might get something done. Not everything, but something.
Your neighbor is not your enemy and neither are your fellow citizens. Ask yourself: who does this work out for, cuz it sure ain't "We the People"!!!

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Paper Tiger

Jonathan Best- There are good reasons not to use your real name on this board, though they might not affect you. As others respect your freedom of choice in this matter, please respect theirs.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: The Rev

Today the First Amendment of the United States Constitution is wasted upon Americans. It is a tiresome joke and perhaps it always was. Cease this petty bickering. Show me my ignorance. Prove this comment laughable.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Ghost of the Real Prescott Patriot

It gets worse:

"A bill has been introduced in the United States Senate which will authorize the federal government to revoke the citizenship, creating practical expatriates, of American citizens.

Introduced by Connecticut Independent Joe Lieberman and Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, S 1698, the “Enemy Expatriation Act,” is a simple, 2 page document which offers apparently innocent amendments and additions to existing federal legislation."

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Only 7 voted NO

Kind of an odd bunch:

Coburn (R-Ok)
Harkin (D-Ia)
Lee (R-Ut)
Merkley (D-Or)
Paul (R-Ky)
Sanders (I-Vt)
Wyden (D-Or)

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Bowden

Tom: I take you at your word your intent was to be critical in a bipartisan way. I have reread the article several times and I still think you failed to achieve that goal. For whatever reason, you could not resist focussing the majority of the blame on two Republican senators. I think that is unfortunate, because, when partisanship seems so obvious, it tends to trump everything else. Look, you're a Courier columnist, that gives you a kind of automatic validation the rest of us don't have. It also means, however, you may be held to at least a slightly higher standard, when it comes to honesty and fairness. I don't think that is inappropriate.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Anne Enigma

The real danger of the NDAA is that it gives Commander in Chief the legal power to command military action here at home in the USA. That means killing, assassinations, and capturing prisoners, aka detention.

It surely isn't just about indefinite detention, because any number of agencies could capture 'the enemy' off the streets, especially without having to bother with the old legal essentials of Miranda Warnings, charges, lawyers, judges, courts, pleas, trials.

The NDAA is about more permanent solutions. The Military is the only sure fire and legal way to carry out orders by the Commander in Chief to assassinate whoever is determined to be 'The Enemy' here in the USA, based only on suspicions. Has anyone noticed how the 'Enemy' list keeps expanding? And weren't those long and expensive wars abroad so that 'we wouldn't have to fight them here'? Obviously we LOST. Big-time.

We have also now lost our Bill of Rights legal protections. And trillions of dollars and the lives of thousands of soldiers. Also the health and well-being of tens of thousands more. It has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians abroad and ruined their homes and countries, and caused untold grief and misery. They won't forget us. They can't.

And now the chickenhawks are coming home to roost.


Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Come On Now

1. With a Senate in control of the Democrats, and a Democrat in the White House, blaming the Republicans for the passage of a single bill on any subject is ridiculous. How about just a little honesty here?

2."The NDAA was urgently passed to deal with Occupy." The local left is becoming truly wacky. Occupy is quickly becoming a punch line to a unfunny joke. You think you 4 people keep Obama up at night? Not hardly.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Tom Cantlon

To Tom Bowden, Let me sandwich this by saying this other stuff is a side issue. The real issue in unconstitutional detention & lack of due process and I hope everyone gives all the responsible people heck about it until it's changed. But the side issue: A number of comments here and elsewhere indicate most people get that I was saying this is a bipartisan serious mistake. I take some comments as just people who couldn't bring themselves to agree with someone of the Left if they said the sky is blue. Some though I wonder if they just assume I'm so partisan that unless I clearly state otherwise, they assume the opposite of what most readers get. The they don't get that the 2nd para was a statement of being disgusted with Obama on rights issues in general. When I said the president signed it that was clearly meant as an indictment of him as well, but for them I would have to say "he signed it and that is a bad thing". I suppose if one reads it with an assumption of extreme partisanship the meaning of something like "he signed it" could be missed. Maybe some people are accustomed to simplistic white hat, black hat, info sources and can't imagine I actually mean to condemn Obama for this too unless I spell it out. I picked on McCain because he's ours, ironically a POW, and one of the instigators of this chapter of this ongoing error. I picked on Graham because he opened his mouth and summed up this foolishness perfectly. But before people waste their breath here, first send your complaints to all those responsible so the law gets changed.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Fear Based Living

I consider the Republicans to be sad actors in tattered costumes and smeared theatrical make up and selling the same old Prosperity Gospel Show. Make you feel good, but not at those ticket prices.

That aside, the President should have vetoed the bill. Unfortunately, that would have meant vetoing Defense authorization bill and in a time of war. The Republican would be screaming "fire" in the theater.

Bad actors, Lindsy and McCain were the guys trying to sell military equipment, on behalf of their defense corporations, to Gadaffi, mere months before the Libyan democratic revolution. Time to drop the curtains and this tragic amusement actors, it ain't Broadway, it's porno.

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: O.P. Naso

@Mr Cantlon- noli illegitimi carborundum, old boy. I find you to write well-thought-out and sincere opinion pieces each week, and although I do not always agree with your conclusions, I have immense respect for the way that you always have a list of citations for your evidence. Though many readers do not distinguish between well-researched presentations of the issues of the day and fiery partisan crap with no nutritional value, some do. It is clear that you consistently put in the time, and I for one appreciate being able to read a moderate voice with occasionally brilliant insights. Please do not be discouraged- the nature of this medium is that the most extreme positions reverberate while the others apparently fall on deaf ears, but this is only because provoking someone to thought is not always the same as provoking them to post a reply on the discussion board. Cheers~

Posted: Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Article comment by: Jonathan Best

Who are these people, afraid to use their real names, ready to criticize everything Tom writes even if they agree with him? Or are they bots sent in by the government to divide the masses?

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