Civil Liberties

Will the Dems Save Our Civil Liberties?

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That's what the Independent Insitute's Anthony Gregory asks. His answer:

There is little reason for optimism that the Democrats will…deliver us from the evil of the growing police state of warrantless searches, indefinite detentions, sweeping surveillance, and other attacks on civil liberties.

For one thing, Democrats have supported the worst of Bush's policies. Only one Democrat in the Senate, Russ Feingold, opposed the Patriot Act when it was first proposed. Just this year, Democratic members of the House overwhelmingly, and Democratic Senators unanimously, approved the Defense Authorization Act for 2007, which contains frightening modifications of the Insurrection Act and new exceptions to Posse Comitatus, empowering the president to summon the National Guard, without gubernatorial authority, and to enforce martial law during "emergencies" ranging from natural disasters to health crises. More than 25 percent of Senate Democrats even voted for the Military Commissions Act, marking the first time since the Civil War that the federal government suspended Habeas Corpus.

Whole thing, including donkey-party horror stories from the Wilson administration up through the Clinton administration, here.

Via Politech.

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  1. There is little reason for optimism that the Democrats will…deliver us from the evil of the growing police state of warrantless searches, indefinite detentions, sweeping surveillance, and other attacks on civil liberties.

    I won’t say I told you so. Or, Duh.

  2. All true, yet somehow I suspect I won’t have to hear the indignation from people ages 16-30 anymore.

  3. “Only one Democrat in the Senate, Russ Feingold, opposed the Patriot Act when it was first proposed.” It was first proposed a week or so after the towers fell. Of slightly greater relevance to the question at hand would be the explicitly anti-PATRIOT campaigns run by a number of Democrats in 2006.

    “Just this year, Democratic members of the House overwhelmingly, and Democratic Senators unanimously, approved the Defense Authorization Act for 2007”

    The Democrats didn’t rewrite the Defense Authorization Act that the Republican Congress had spent several months creating. So you have any idea how big a Defense Authorizaiton Act is? Don’t these people know anything about the process behind the big authorization bills?

    Doesn’t that last bit mean that 3 out of 4 Senate Democrats voted against the Military Commissions Act? That’s rather an odd way to report on the vote tally.

    BTW, Senator Christopher Dodd, Connecticut’s only Democratic Senator, has filed a bill that would dramatically scale back the scope of the MCA. The Indepdendent Institute seems to have overlooked that.

  4. As mentioned by Jacob Sullum just a little bit ago, the Dems have restored some of our liberties just by bouncing Jim Sensenbrenner off the Judiciary Committee. Very few people were as anti-liberty as Sensenbrenner.

  5. “So you have any idea how big a Defense Authorizaiton Act is? Don’t these people know anything about the process behind the big authorization bills?”

    I feel so much better knowing that people’s civil rights may very well be snuffed out due to a lack of time for proper proof-reading, rather than being justified with the typical excuses of “homeland security” or “its for the children.”

    “Doesn’t that last bit mean that 3 out of 4 Senate Democrats voted against the Military Commissions Act? That’s rather an odd way to report on the vote tally.”

    Ah, so only 1/4 of the Democrats think infringing on civil liberties is ok to do. I’m glad to see that in this case we can establish that the Dems only contain 25% of my RDA of evil.

    “BTW, Senator Christopher Dodd, Connecticut’s only Democratic Senator, has filed a bill that would dramatically scale back the scope of the MCA. The Indepdendent Institute seems to have overlooked that.”

    In what ways?

  6. The Democrat are never going to undo any of these things in a serious way. They are not stupid. They good and well that if they do change things and there is another 9-11, the Republicans are going to fairly or unfairly tag them with the responsibility for it and it would be a political disaster of unimaginable proportions. Some Democrats may talk a good game about how terrorism is not that big of a threat, but they are not willing to bet their political futures on it.

  7. Yeah, Hillary’s going to love all this police state stuff when she’s president. I hope all you NRA pro-life etc idiots are happy when she sends you to Gitmo for being terrorists.

  8. It will be entertaining to see in the months ahead how those big elephants manage to squeeze into those little donkey outfits.

  9. mediageek,

    It would be better to google Dodd’s bill than for me to try to remember everything about it.

    A couple of highlights, though:

    1. Everyone held as an illegal enemy combatant gets habeas corpus rights. Every single person detained by the government would either be entitled to the protections afforded to POWs, or they get their day in court.

    2. Evidence obtained through torture or abuse is inadmissable.

    3. Torture is banned, even if someone decides to call it “alternative interrogation methods” or some other bureacratic acronymn.

    4. The President would no longer be able to change your legal status to “illegal enemy combatant” through the stroke of a pen. You would actually have to be found by a properly constituted tribunal to have engaged in hostilities against the United States in contravention of the laws of war. Unbelievable, under current law, you (and I mean you, an American citizen on American soil) can become an illegal enemy combatant by being found to be such by a tribunal, OR by the stroke of the President’s pen. Not AND/OR. Just OR.

  10. Joe – From what you represent here, I like the sound of Dodd’s bill. I would like to see him propose some similar restrictions on the rights granted by the PATRIOT Act also (by “rights,” I clearly mean rights granted to the executive branch of our government, not to our citizens). However, I think John is correct that the dems will not act, or at least not strongly, on these areas due to the risk that the republicans will successfully paint them as soft on crime and terrorism, abandoning our troops, etc. I will add that I find it extremely sad that rhetoric plays such a prominent role (perhaps the leading role) in policy development today, but my dismay does not alter the reality.

    Have you seen anything indicating that the dems will pursue this type of thing with vigor? And I mean seen anything besides the dems’ rhetoric.

  11. mike,

    What would there be for me to see, other than the filing of bills? Stay tuned, that’s all I can say.

    But yes, the wussification of the Democrats is always a real threat. Oh no, the Republicans might call us wimpy! Quick, we have to cringe at their feet! Yes, that PATRIOT Act, that’s a great idea, sir!

    To the degree that Democrats think they have the political support to tell the Republicans to go Cheney themselves, they will do so. What this means in terms of pro-liberty, pro-Constitution, anti-PATRIOT voters’ next step, I’ll leave for you all to figure out for yourselves.

  12. It will be entertaining to see in the months ahead how those big elephants manage to squeeze into those little donkey outfits.

    Not sure why, but this imagery had me rolling on the floor under my desk.

  13. As mentioned by Jacob Sullum just a little bit ago, the Dems have restored some of our liberties just by bouncing Jim Sensenbrenner off the Judiciary Committee.

    Actually, then have done no such thing. Yet.

    But the odds may be a little better that they will. We’ll see.

  14. Martial Law for health crisis? Why damn it, why have those irresponsible Republicans not declared Martial Law to fight the obesity epidemic? I bet Hillary wouldn’t hesitate! Think of the children!

  15. Attention Comrades,
    Please visit http://ministryoflove.wordpress.com to learn about our creative protest of the Military Commissions Act.
    Regards,
    O’Brien

  16. When the Democrats start fully supporting the War on Islamo-Fascism, then one can say that they are supporting civil liberties. They’re starting to come around. Of course, Joe Lieberman has always been a Pro-Civil Liberties/Pro-War on Islamo-Fascism guy. Let’s hope other Dems follow his example.

    Always remember:

    “Islamo-Fascists want to cover your wife in an ugly burqa from head-to-toe, force you to kneel down to Allah 5 times a day at the point of a gun, stone prostitutes in your town square, cut off the genitals of your Gay friends, and jail your marijuana-smoking buddy for life.” – Eric Dondero, Nov. 2006 (copyrighted)

    They are the ultimate anti-civil libertarians.

  17. Eric,

    Your risk assessment calculator is broken.

    Islamo-Fascists have no traction here. Nothing on the pro-Islamist agenda is getting through our legislative process (except maybe what’s snuck in by their Christian-Fascist fellow travelers). The odds of military conquest are equivalent to zero. Terrorism is not an existential threat.

    On the other hand, there is a demonstrated risk of our legislators engaging in security theater, and compromising our rights for the show.

    Now lets talk about your least fanciful assertion: Lieberman is pro-civil liberties? Example?

  18. The reason Eric’s argument is so convincing is because foreign enemies are the only possible threat to our civil liberties, and our own government has never shown a tendency to impinge on our rights when fighting against those enemies.

    Just ask the Quakers in 1918, or the Japanese Americans in 1943.

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