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Irresponsible Congress Undermines Basic Freedoms!

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Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Two time presidential contender Adlai Stevenson had a quote concerning two-faced public officials. “A hypocrite is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree, then mount the stump and make a speech for conservation.”Â  Well said, and there should be little doubt as to where the greatest concentration of hypocrites can be found in America, today.  Just look toward the nation’s capitol. Prognosticating in favor of proposed legislation, then voting against it, or vice versa, has become increasingly commonplace in Washington.

No better example can be found than by observing members of congress trying to “cover their tracks” by reversing a section in the recently enacted National defense Act. The Act itself is the vehicle to allow military spending of $662 billion for 2013. The U.S., with the approval of Congress, will continue a number of “everywhere and forever” military actions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq (we’re still in Iraq?) and possibly enter into a confrontation with Iran.  Well, OK, so far, I guess. You just gotta trust our leadership — right?

But now, with the overwhelming approval of Congress, the battlefield has come back home. A legislative atrocity now gives to this president, and any future president, the power to give an order to the military to detain and arrest American citizens, and indefinitely hold them without charges. That’s right.  No charges, no trial, and hold them indefinitely. What happened to the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments that were supposed serve as checks and balances, giving guaranteed protections to every American?

We hear admonitions from Republicans and Democrats alike, about “big, intrusive government.” What we hear little of is the constitutional guarantee, found in the Fourth Amendment that confirms “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects”¦”Â  Any school kid knows this is nothing new.  English legal doctrine set the tone for the Fourth Amendment when Sir Edward Coke stated back in 1609 that: “The house of every one is to him as his castle and fortress, as well for his defence against injury and violence as for his repose.”  Translated for members of Congress: If you don’t have specific charges to bring, leave us alone.

Right after he was sworn in to office, President Obama asserted: “Our values have been our best national security assets in war and peace; in times of ease and eras of upheaval.”Â  Good rhetoric, but his performance in defense of basic individual liberties has been in direct contradiction to this.

President Obama began his assault of basic constitutionally guaranteed liberties by signing the so called Patriot Act. Simply put, the Patriot Act is one of the most egregious acts against basic rights and liberties that we have witnessed in our lifetimes. The President and many members of Congress will argue that they have a job to keep American safe.  But that’s not the starting point.  Their job is to see that the Constitution is enforced, and that means keeping us free.  As Judge Andrew Napolitano said on his Fox News program recently, the job of these federal officials is to keep us “Free from tyrants who sought and claimed power from thin air; free from prince-like federal agents who could behave without constitutional or legal restraint; free to live with a government that obeys its own laws. Any president who keeps us safe but unfree is ignoring his oath to the American people.” And doesn’t keeping us safe include keeping us safe from the tyranny of our own government as well?

The President gave lip service to concerns over the recent Defense Act: “Despite having serious reservations with certain provisions,” I am signing this legislation.

Months before, The President had said, “my administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens.”Â  Hey, Mr. President, that’s not what this law you signed says.  It says just the opposite.  You signed into law your complete authority to detain and indefinitely jail American citizens. No amount of rhetoric will obscure this fact.

A number of members of Congress apparently are feeling the heat of their outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional actions.  There is an effort, led by Louisiana congressman Jeff Landry, to reverse parts of the National Defense Act that allows American citizens to be subject to indefinite detention.  Landry says he was “hoodwinked” by California Congressman Bob McEwen, who handled the defense legislation on the House floor. Landry was assured by the house Republican leadership that American citizens were not subject to being held indefinitely, when in fact the opposite was true.

To his credit, Landry is trying to make amends. He has introduced new legislation making it clear that American citizens are not subject to the provisions of the Defense Act, and so far he has obtained 59 co-sponsors with Republicans and Democrats joining in his effort.  But he still faces an uphill fight since he is being opposed by both the Republican and Democratic leadership in the House. You see, it’s election year and the leadership just doesn’t want to go back and open up old wounds.  “Let it be,” they say. “The President said he wouldn’t enforce the law, so let’s just leave well enough alone.”

Hopefully, Landry’s repeal efforts will be successful. But troubling questions are still are being ignored by a majority of Congress as well as by the President. Does the Bill of Rights mean anything anymore?  Are Americans now guilty until proven innocent? Does the accused still have the right to defend himself?  Or do we continue to follow the current mantra of “indefinite detainment,” in defiance of the constitution and the principals on which the United States was founded?

These questions need to be raised to those who want to represent us in Washington.  How many congressmen will stand up for the premise that each and every American has basic constitutional freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights?  From what we have witnessed recently, the numbers in support of these freedoms are dwindling.


“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.“ ~Abraham Lincoln

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the country.   You can read all is past columns and see continuing updates at www.jimbrownla.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

In 2000, the Republicans held control of both houses of congress as well as the presidency.  Similar to what the Democrats have right now. Federal s

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