On March 4th, 2010, Senator John McCain [R-AZ], Senator Joseph Lieberman [I-CT] and eight other co-sponsors introduced Senate Bill 3081, the u201CEnemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.u201D At the time of this writing, the text was not available on GovTrack, but it is available here. This atrocious piece of legislation if passed would allow the military to detain and interrogate U.S. citizens indefinitely and without benefit of trial simply based on suspicious activity! Of course, the USA PATRIOT Act and the Military Commissions Act are already in place, and allow for egregious behavior by government against the citizenry, but this legislation takes it a step further.
Before I go into any more detail, let me preface my remarks by saying that I fully understand that this bill has simply been introduced and sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It has not and may not be passed. Whether it gains approval or not, the fact remains that many powerful U.S. Senators are attempting to put this into law. This point is crucial to understand before any critical thinking can take place. Although much introduced legislation has failed to come to fruition since 2001, much of it, and the most abhorrent I might add (The USA PATRIOT Act, Military Commissions Act, etc.), has been put into law. We in this country have watched our liberties be destroyed by this government, so nothing should be taken lightly concerning any new legislation proposed. Regardless if it actually becomes law or not, the fact is that many of our representatives are attempting to bring this about, and if this one fails, another will take its place.
With that said, one of the first things that should be explained is the new term unprivileged enemy belligerent. It is defined in the Military Commissions Act of 2009 (FY10 Defense Authorization Bill Section 1031) as:
Definition of Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents (Those Subject to a Military Commission)
- The main purpose of the MCA was to create a forum in which to try u201Calien unlawful enemy combatantsu201D for violations of the law of war.
- This bill changes that label to u201Cunprivileged enemy belligerent,u201D defining this as an individual who: 1) has engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or 2) has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.
Upon simple inspection, it is quite obvious that the term u201Calienu201D has been removed and that anyone who only supports hostilities against the United States (I will discuss this later) can be considered an unprivileged enemy belligerent. Joanne Mariner, a brilliant lawyer with Human Rights Watch, explains that: u201CThe new law begins by tweaking the definition of individuals eligible for trial before military commissions – most obviously by scrapping the phrase “unlawful enemy combatant,” and replacing it with “unprivileged enemy belligerent. This is a cosmetic change, not a real improvement, which mirrors the administration’s decision to drop the enemy combatant formula in habeas litigation at Guantanamo Bay. What overshadows all of these differences is, however, a key similarity with the Bush-era definition. Just as, in the Guantanamo habeas litigation, the Obama administration has adopted the Bush-era position of claiming that persons who provide support to hostilities can be treated just like persons who engaged in hostilities, the new law’s “unprivileged enemy belligerent” definition takes the same tack.u201D This is an extremely important point, and one that should alarm all citizens!
The very first few lines in this bill in Section 2 states:
Sec. 2. Placement of Suspected Unprivileged Enemy Belligerents in Military Custody.
- MILITARY CUSTODY REQUIREMENT.―Whenever within the United States, its territories, and possessions, or outside the territorial limits of the United States, an individual is captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States who is suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism, or by other means in violation of the laws of war, or of purposely and materially supporting such hostilities, and who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent, the individual shall be placed in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status in accordance with the provisions of this Act. (all emphasis mine)
In addition, any individual initially captured or who in any manner comes under effective control of the U.S., may be held, interrogated, or transported by any U.S. intelligence agency and placed into military custody. With the establishment of u201CInterrogation Groups,u201D which is authorized by this Act, and composed of personnel in the Executive Branch, each person captured or held may be designated as a u201CHigh-Value Detainee.u201D One of the criteria for determining if one is to be designated as u201Chigh value,u201D should the obvious ones fail is: u201CSuch other matters as the President considers appropriate.u201D This is of course so broad in nature that virtually anyone can be detained if deemed necessary by just one man's authority. Any individual who is suspected of being an unprivileged enemy belligerent will not be provided Miranda or otherwise be informed of any rights. In addition, they u201Cmay be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities.u201D Given that the so-called u201CWar on Terroru201D may never have an end; this by design, you can see how horrendous this legislation truly is. Add to this other legislation that is already in place, and the probability that with any civil unrest or natural disaster Martial Law could now be not only implemented but u201Clegallyu201D administered; there is a very real and dangerous risk to any of us who won't submit fully to the state.
I might mention here that there is confusing information in this bill that is conflictual and contradictory concerning the term alien as opposed to citizen. But given the new government definition of u201Cunprivileged enemy belligerent,u201D I think this confusion unnecessary. My opinion is that anyone, citizen or not, classified as an unprivileged enemy belligerent will be treated the same under this bill.
More and more legislation, whether in the form of executive order or proposed bill, is constantly being considered and put into the legislative system. Since much of these proposed rules and changes are either strengthening the government's position or conflicting with current law, the confusion continues to mount. In this confusion, we see that few fully understand the risks we face as citizens. This lack of clarity seems now to be ever-present in everything this federal government does. Is this an accident or coincidental? I think not! Designed confusion is and has always been a useful tool of government. If you doubt this, just consider the U.S. tax code for example. No, these continuous new rules are planned from the outset, so close scrutiny is advised.
Try to think back just a few years and consider the naked progression of liberty-destructing legislation that is now in place or being considered; especially since 2001. It is immense! Of course, it began with the atrocious USA PATRIOT Act and now is continuing with the possible passage of the u201CEnemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.u201D During all this time, the military has taken up residence on our streets, civil liberty has all but disappeared, and fear-mongering by government has escalated. The state police forces have also become militarized and armed to the teeth. Habeas corpus no longer is guaranteed and little is known of what actually goes on behind closed doors in Washington D.C. I am bringing this to your attention because the threat here is not from any terrorist or terrorist group, but from our own government. There is a clear and present danger to us all, and it lives and breathes in the halls of congress, in the courts, and especially in the executive branch of the United States Federal government. This threat is real and obvious, and little time is left for those of us who love freedom and liberty to act to reverse this colossal assault on our rights as human beings.
Gary D. Barnett [send him mail] is president of Barnett Financial Services, Inc., in Lewistown, Montana.