Friday, July 31, 2009

The military: coming to a neighborhood near you

From the 03 August 2009 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

The July 25, 2009 edition of the New York Times dropped a bombshell about the war on terror and its subsequent war on the Constitution. The Times reported that then vice-president Dick Cheney and Defense Department executives pushed hard for the use of military force to bring in the Lackawanna Six in 2002. This use of force was ultimately denied by President Bush who exercised some sense and utilized, instead, the FBI.

We here in Western New York are at what would have been ground zero for the invasion. But, you wouldn’t know it. There has been little public outcry over the Times’ story. There haven’t been any follow-up stories in the local radio, television and print news outlets. The blogosphere has been unusually tame. Even the talk at water coolers and diners hasn’t addressed the issue as one would have assumed. It’s almost as if people don’t care.

Maybe that indifference can be chalked-up to the fact that the military occupation never happened, that it was only an idea being discussed by the Bush Administration. Chances are good, too, that the disinterest can be attributed to the new mindset of the American citizen, the belief by many that it’s perfectly fine for liberty to be forsaken for the (perceived) sense of security. They might be comforted by the thought of the armed forces busting the terrorists and “teaching them a lesson.”

This topic does deserve discussion and an ongoing one at that. It may have been just an idea, but it was so very close to becoming a reality, one that wasn’t carried out in 2002 but could easily be carried out now and in the future.

Had the army actually visited the Buffalo suburb I think things would have been quite different. People would have been pretty upset. Imagine the tranquility of a typical September day in suburban New York being upset by the rumbling of tanks and Humvees making their way down Main Street. Imagine the horror of the Lackawanna residents, wondering why their sidewalks and lawns were teeming with armed soldiers. Imagine the nightmare that could have occurred had the Lackawanna Six saw the troops coming, instead of being caught off-guard by the more clandestine FBI: It might have been the second coming of Waco, but only in a more populated area, putting thousands of citizens in harm’s way.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for our men and women in the military, but their responsibilities and duties have their place and Downtown USA is not it. It’s illogical to roll out the forces to arrest a handful of individuals. Worse yet, it’s highly illegal.

For starters, an arrest carried out as military action on American soil sullies the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth protects every one of us – guilty or not – from unabated government intrusion. It notes, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The capture of the Lackawanna cell would have broken every component of the Amendment. Many would say that they were terrorists – enemies of the USA – and not worthy of the same rights that we all share. That sort of logic is misguided. The terrorists were, at the time, still suspects (they had not yet been found guilty) and breaking the rules for one class of citizen or crime can set a precedent whereby law-abiding citizens can be subjected to the same sort of seizure and arrest. Refer to the definitions of terrorists issued in numerous federal reports this year. Any one of us could be labeled an enemy of the state.

Beyond the Constitution itself, law was instituted in 1878 to prevent such an exercise of force. The Posse Comitatus Act limits military action on non-federal property in the United States and excludes them from carrying out arrests and other police-like activity unless authorized by the Constitution or an act of Congress.

The Lackawanna arrest would not have met those criteria, making the military action illegal.

Or so we thought.

Aiding Cheney in his cause were members of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel who wrote that the President could do what he wanted, regardless of the Constitution or Posse Comitatus, because he was granted special powers to tackle September 11-era terror threats anywhere on Earth, whether abroad or on American soil.

Basically, the puppeteers in administrations past, present and future believe that laws and rights mean nothing to the government and they can contort them to satisfy any need they might have, as long as the majority of the population can be made willing. So, be careful, the military might one day come to a neighborhood near you.

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