Travelers hoping to retain their dignity by taking buses, trains, or cars instead of airplanes are in for a rude awakening. “The Transportation Security Administration,” writes the Los Angeles Times, “isn't just in airports anymore. TSA teams are increasingly conducting searches and screenings at train stations, subways, ferry terminals and other mass transit locations around the country.”
“We are not the Airport Security Administration,” Ray Dineen, the air marshal in charge of the TSA office in Charlotte, North Carolina, told the Times. “We take that transportation part seriously.”
Indeed they do. No longer content to violate the rights of airline travelers alone, the TSA’s Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams “have run more than 9,300 unannounced checkpoints and other search operations in the last year,” the newspaper says. That’s 9,300 times the government has deliberately ignored the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that it have probable cause and a warrant to search someone and has instead engaged in mass searches of the traveling public. The number of individuals searched during these operations surely reaches into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Add to that the roughly 700 million airline passengers also probed by the TSA in a year, and it’s clear that, as far as the government is concerned, the Constitution is no obstacle to getting what it wants.
In response to the passage by the House and the Senate of the National Defense Appropriations Act of 2012 (NDAA), Stewart Rhodes, founder of Oath Keepers, announced a national effort to recall every member who voted for the act.
Oath Keepers was founded by Rhodes to encourage current members of the military services and veterans to keep their oath to protect and defend the Constitution against “all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Members commit to following certain “orders we will not obey,” including, as especially relevant to NDAA, Number Three:
“It’s infuriating,” Bruce Schneier remarked. “We’re spending billions upon billions of dollars doing this — and it is almost entirely pointless. Not only is it not done right, but even if it was done right it would be the wrong thing to do.”
Schneier could, of course, have been referring to any of dozens of government programs. In this case, however, he was speaking of the federal government’s post-9/11 airport security measures — measures that Schneier, a security expert, has dubbed “security theater,” defined as “actions that accomplish nothing but are designed to make the government look like it is on the job.”
The National Defense Authorization Act will be made law with the stroke of President Obama’s pen (perhaps autopen from Hawaii?). With the enactment of the NDAA, Americans suspected by the President of having committed a “belligerent act” may be apprehended by the military and detained without recitation of charges and without access to an attorney until such time as the President decides that the “War on Terror” is over.
Majorities in both chambers of Congress voted in favor of granting the President this autocratic authority. In the Senate, only 13 members of that body stood up to defend the constitutionally protected civil liberties of Americans. In the House of Representatives, 283 of the people’s representatives violated their oath of office and voted to pass this legislation.
One of those who was true to his vow to protect the Constituiton from all enemies, foreign and domestic, has now offered an amendment to the NDAA that would “clarify the language” of the measure so as to make it explicit that no American citizen could be detained under the provisions of that act without being provided the full panoply of due process protections.
Earlier this week, two human rights advocacy groups issued a joint preliminary report denouncing the governments of Europe for allegedly aiding the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in conducting the now infamous rendition program. Persons accused by the U.S. government of being "enemy combatants" were subject to "extraordinary rendition": capture and shipment off to one of the so-called “black site” secret prisons for questioning, where the detainees were often reportedly subjected to inhuman tactics to elicit responses from them.
Recently there has been much discussion of the eradication of the panoply of fundamental principles of liberty by the Congress and attempts to convert the President into a totalitarian dictator with historic powers to apprehend and indefinitely detain American citizens. This author has questioned whether the permission for the absolute abuse of power soon to be codified as part of the National Defense Authorization Act is not a greater act of tyranny than any perpetrated by George III that precipitated the waging of America’s war for independence.
The “long train of abuses” of which Britain’s crown was accused are enumerated in the Declaration of Independence. This historic indictment of King George III was penned principally by Thomas Jefferson and was laid out in a manner both methodical and lyrical. It stood on the rooftops and decried for the all the world to hear the despotic measures levied against the American colonies by the government of Great Britain.
As our own modern government passes one after the other laws eroding the bedrock of freedom upon which our Republic was built after the successful waging of the war against English oppression, the specific examples of the abuse of power cited in the Declaration of Independence may prove prophetic and may help to enlighten 21st-century Americans and embolden them in their efforts to restore liberty and the constitutional boundaries of government.
Despite protests that the legislation will negate centuries old rights guaranteed by the Constitution, the Senate Thursday passed a bill authorizing the arrest and imprisonment without charge or trial of terrorism suspects, including American citizens, anywhere in the world. The bill, called the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) also authorizes $662 billion in military spending. It has been sent to the White House, where President Obama is expected to sign it, perhaps as early as today (Friday). Obama had threatened to veto earlier versions of bill, but on Wednesday the White House announced the President was satisfied by amendments made by a House-Senate conference committee granting the President greater discretion in determining what terror suspects to hold in military confinement.
"By withdrawing his threat to veto the NDAA, President Obama has abandoned yet another principled position with little or nothing to show for it," said Tom Parker, policy director for Amnesty International USA said. "Amnesty International is appalled -— but regrettably not surprised."
Ironically, the Senate passed the law on December 15, the date of the ratification of the Bill of Rights in 1791. Only 13 Senators voted against the bill, while 86 voted for it, including some who argued that the constitutional guarantees would not be vitiated.
A former member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) with suspected ties to a 1996 terrorist attack in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S servicemen was part of an Iraqi government delegation visiting the White House December 12. The meeting coincided with President Obama’s announcement of the official end of the U.S. military presence in Iraq. According to the Washington Times, Hadi Farhan al-Amiri, Transportation Minister in the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, “was part of the delegation that visited the White House to discuss Iraq’s future and Iran’s influence there, among other topics.”
The Times recalled that al-Amiri was a commander in the Revolutionary Guard’s Badr Corps, the leading edge of that nation’s military effort against Iraq and the regime of Saddam Hussein, and remained in that theatre throughout the late 1980s and ’90s. “The FBI linked the Revolutionary Guard to the attack on the Khobar Towers in Khobar, Saudi Arabia, on June 25, 1996,” reported the Times. “Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed by a bomb blast at the towers, which were housing American military personnel.”
Are African elephants an endangered species? Like so many questions, the answer depends on who’s giving it. Villagers in northern Uganda whose food the animals devour would likely call them an endangerment — or worse. “[After] I found the elephants eating my crops in the garden, I started banging an empty jerry can to scare them but one of the big elephants charged at me. I was lucky because I ran in between the trees and the elephant stopped. I gave up my garden of millet and rice,” said Mateo Ojok. He’s one of the “internally displaced persons (IDPs) … struggling to resettle because persistent elephant incursions into their fields are threatening their livelihoods, and sometimes, their lives.” Mr. Ojok added, “[Life in] this place is a struggle between the elephants and human beings. The elephants are giving us a hard time, they are really aggressive.”
So aggressive, in fact that “the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates … the annual cost of elephant raids to crops in Africa” at “US$60 in Uganda … per affected farmer.” That’s a sizable chunk of wealth in a country where the “gross national income per capita” for 2009 was $511.9 in “current US [dollars].”