Students of history may recall the year 49 B.C. Early in that momentous year, a popular soldier-statesman crossed the Rubicon River, thus effectively declaring war on the citizens on the Republic whose acclaim had exalted him to the pinnacle of authority and strength. The details of the story are recounted by the historian Suetonius. Suetonius writes that upon approaching the banks of that historic boundary, Julius Caesar stood before his legion of faithful soldiers and uttered the now-famous phrase: alea iacta est ("the die has been cast"). With those three words, Caesar signaled the end of the Roman Republic. The rule of law soon was supplanted by the rule of one ambitious (audacious?) man.
On Thursday, March 1, the die has been cast again as the American Republic entered the post-NDAA era. On March 1, the major provisions of that unconstitutional measure went into legal effect. Then, with another stroke of his pen, President Barack Obama implemented a set of regulations establishing the policies for implementing the immense powers granted him by the National Defense Authorization Act. Thus, he, and we, crossed into uncharted territory.
The media have portrayed these directives as a move by President Obama proving the strength and sincerity of his resolve to never deploy the military to detain American citizens without a trial. A closer look reveals that the media blowing of the President’s trumpet is mostly sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Nearly two months have passed since the President signed the NDAA into law. On December 31, 2011, with the portentous affixing of his signature to that law passed overwhelming by the Congress, the writ of habeas corpus — a civil right so fundamental to Anglo-American common law history that it predates the Magna Carta — became voidable upon the command of the President of the United States. The Sixth Amendment right to counsel — also revocable at his will.
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