As a child of Romanian immigrants from the brutal era of communism, I heard quite a number of stories told about how people were routinely arrested and put into prison for the most unreasonable reasons — anything from protesting against the government to just not being in the right place at the right time. My parents were very happy that we live in a country where, as they said at the time, a person could march up and down the streets carrying signs denouncing President Clinton (I suppose this dates me pretty well) and they would never be arrested.

Although it is not likely to ultimately go through due to the threat of presidential veto, the very notion that there is a measure that passed the Senate vote that would allow the military to detail terrorism suspects indefinitely without trial.

“I’m very, very, concerned about having U.S. citizens sent to Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detention,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the Senate’s most conservative members.

Paul’s top complaint is that a terrorism suspect would get just one hearing where the military could assert that the person is a suspected terrorist — and then they could be locked up for life, without ever formally being charged. The only safety valve is a waiver from the secretary of defense.

This is wrong on numerous levels, the very most important of which is that the United States Constitution — that sacred document which defines how our constitution is run and at whose altar Tea Party Republicans seemingly worship — completely forbids this kind of measure. Let us review one of the key points of the sixth amendment to the Constitution. The sixth amendment, as you surely

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

The measure contradicts almost the entire sixth amendment and yet it passed the senate vote in the name of protecting our country from terrorists. Yet somehow at the same time we are destroying our own fundamental liberties and the structure that makes up the foundation of our country. We are rather fortunate to have a an executive branch wise enough to recognize when a measure steps out of line of what the government is meant to do to keep us safe.


  1. We live in scary times, Gordon. If this becomes the law of the land, I shudder for the suddenly quaint — and dangerous! — notion of “freedom of speech.”

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