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Turley writes: "Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own - the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence."

An American flag behind barbed wire, and all that implies, 06/15/09. (photo: Public Domain)
An American flag behind barbed wire, and all that implies, 06/15/09. (photo: Public Domain)

The US Is No Longer the Land of the Free

By Jonathan Turley, Jonathan Turley's Blog

15 January 12


elow is today's column in the Sunday Washington Post. The column addresses how the continued rollbacks on civil liberties in the United States conflicts with the view of the country as the land of the free. If we are going to adopt Chinese legal principles, we should at least have the integrity to adopt one Chinese proverb: "The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names." We seem as a country to be in denial as to the implications of these laws and policies. Whether we are viewed as a free country with authoritarian inclinations or an authoritarian nation with free aspirations (or some other hybrid definition), we are clearly not what we once were.

Every year, the State Department issues reports on individual rights in other countries, monitoring the passage of restrictive laws and regulations around the world. Iran, for example, has been criticized for denying fair public trials and limiting privacy, while Russia has been taken to task for undermining due process. Other countries have been condemned for the use of secret evidence and torture.

Even as we pass judgment on countries we consider unfree, Americans remain confident that any definition of a free nation must include their own - the land of free. Yet, the laws and practices of the land should shake that confidence. In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state. The most recent example of this was the National Defense Authorization Act, signed Dec. 31, which allows for the indefinite detention of citizens. At what point does the reduction of individual rights in our country change how we define ourselves?

While each new national security power Washington has embraced was controversial when enacted, they are often discussed in isolation. But they don't operate in isolation. They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian. Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of "free," but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.

These countries also have constitutions that purport to guarantee freedoms and rights. But their governments have broad discretion in denying those rights and few real avenues for challenges by citizens - precisely the problem with the new laws in this country.

The list of powers acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11 puts us in rather troubling company.

Assassination of U.S. Citizens

President Obama has claimed, as President George W. Bush did before him, the right to order the killing of any citizen considered a terrorist or an abettor of terrorism. Last year, he approved the killing of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaqi and another citizen under this claimed inherent authority. Last month, administration officials affirmed that power, stating that the president can order the assassination of any citizen whom he considers allied with terrorists. (Nations such as Nigeria, Iran and Syria have been routinely criticized for extrajudicial killings of enemies of the state.)

Indefinite Detention

Under the law signed last month, terrorism suspects are to be held by the military; the president also has the authority to indefinitely detain citizens accused of terrorism. While Sen. Carl Levin insisted the bill followed existing law "whatever the law is," the Senate specifically rejected an amendment that would exempt citizens and the Administration has opposed efforts to challenge such authority in federal court. The Administration continues to claim the right to strip citizens of legal protections based on its sole discretion. (China recently codified a more limited detention law for its citizens, while countries such as Cambodia have been singled out by the United States for "prolonged detention.")

Arbitrary Justice

The president now decides whether a person will receive a trial in the federal courts or in a military tribunal, a system that has been ridiculed around the world for lacking basic due process protections. Bush claimed this authority in 2001, and Obama has continued the practice. (Egypt and China have been denounced for maintaining separate military justice systems for selected defendants, including civilians.)

Warrantless Searches

The president may now order warrantless surveillance, including a new capability to force companies and organizations to turn over information on citizens' finances, communications and associations. Bush acquired this sweeping power under the Patriot Act in 2001, and in 2011, Obama extended the power, including searches of everything from business documents to library records. The government can use "national security letters" to demand, without probable cause, that organizations turn over information on citizens - and order them not to reveal the disclosure to the affected party. (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan operate under laws that allow the government to engage in widespread discretionary surveillance.)

Secret Evidence

The government now routinely uses secret evidence to detain individuals and employs secret evidence in federal and military courts. It also forces the dismissal of cases against the United States by simply filing declarations that the cases would make the government reveal classified information that would harm national security - a claim made in a variety of privacy lawsuits and largely accepted by federal judges without question. Even legal opinions, cited as the basis for the government's actions under the Bush and Obama administrations, have been classified. This allows the government to claim secret legal arguments to support secret proceedings using secret evidence. In addition, some cases never make it to court at all. The federal courts routinely deny constitutional challenges to policies and programs under a narrow definition of standing to bring a case.

War Crimes

The world clamored for prosecutions of those responsible for waterboarding terrorism suspects during the Bush administration, but the Obama administration said in 2009 that it would not allow CIA employees to be investigated or prosecuted for such actions. This gutted not just treaty obligations but the Nuremberg principles of international law. When courts in countries such as Spain moved to investigate Bush officials for war crimes, the Obama administration reportedly urged foreign officials not to allow such cases to proceed, despite the fact that the United States has long claimed the same authority with regard to alleged war criminals in other countries. (Various nations have resisted investigations of officials accused of war crimes and torture. Some, such as Serbia and Chile, eventually relented to comply with international law; countries that have denied independent investigations include Iran, Syria and China.)

Secret Court

The government has increased its use of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has expanded its secret warrants to include individuals deemed to be aiding or abetting hostile foreign governments or organizations. In 2011, Obama renewed these powers, including allowing secret searches of individuals who are not part of an identifiable terrorist group. The administration has asserted the right to ignore congressional limits on such surveillance. (Pakistan places national security surveillance under the unchecked powers of the military or intelligence services.)

Immunity From Judicial Review

Like the Bush administration, the Obama administration has successfully pushed for immunity for companies that assist in warrantless surveillance of citizens, blocking the ability of citizens to challenge the violation of privacy. (Similarly, China has maintained sweeping immunity claims both inside and outside the country and routinely blocks lawsuits against private companies.)

Continual Monitoring of Citizens

The Obama administration has successfully defended its claim that it can use GPS devices to monitor every move of targeted citizens without securing any court order or review. It is not defending the power before the Supreme Court - a power described by Justice Anthony Kennedy as "Orwellian." (Saudi Arabia has installed massive public surveillance systems, while Cuba is notorious for active monitoring of selected citizens.)

Extraordinary Renditions

The government now has the ability to transfer both citizens and noncitizens to another country under a system known as extraordinary rendition, which has been denounced as using other countries, such as Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, to torture suspects. The Obama administration says it is not continuing the abuses of this practice under Bush, but it insists on the unfettered right to order such transfers - including the possible transfer of U.S. citizens.

These new laws have come with an infusion of money into an expanded security system on the state and federal levels, including more public surveillance cameras, tens of thousands of security personnel and a massive expansion of a terrorist-chasing bureaucracy.

Some politicians shrug and say these increased powers are merely a response to the times we live in. Thus, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) could declare in an interview last spring without objection that "free speech is a great idea, but we're in a war." Of course, terrorism will never "surrender" and end this particular "war."

Other politicians rationalize that, while such powers may exist, it really comes down to how they are used. This is a common response by liberals who cannot bring themselves to denounce Obama as they did Bush. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), for instance, has insisted that Congress is not making any decision on indefinite detention: "That is a decision which we leave where it belongs - in the executive branch."

And in a signing statement with the defense authorization bill, Obama said he does not intend to use the latest power to indefinitely imprison citizens. Yet, he still accepted the power as a sort of regretful autocrat.

An authoritarian nation is defined not just by the use of authoritarian powers, but by the ability to use them. If a president can take away your freedom or your life on his own authority, all rights become little more than a discretionary grant subject to executive will.

The framers lived under autocratic rule and understood this danger better than we do. James Madison famously warned that we needed a system that did not depend on the good intentions or motivations of our rulers: "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

Benjamin Franklin was more direct. In 1787, a Mrs. Powel confronted Franklin after the signing of the Constitution and asked, "Well, Doctor, what have we got - a republic or a monarchy?" His response was a bit chilling: "A republic, Madam, if you can keep it."

Since 9/11, we have created the very government the framers feared: a government with sweeping and largely unchecked powers resting on the hope that they will be used wisely.

The indefinite-detention provision in the defense authorization bill seemed to many civil libertarians like a betrayal by Obama. While the president had promised to veto the law over that provision, Levin, a sponsor of the bill, disclosed on the Senate floor that it was in fact the White House that approved the removal of any exception for citizens from indefinite detention.

Dishonesty from politicians is nothing new for Americans. The real question is whether we are lying to ourselves when we call this country the land of the free.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University. your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

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It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

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Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+139 # RMDC 2012-01-15 11:45
Thanks, Jonathan. Nice clear overwiew of what lawyers like to call "the slippery slope." We are indeed on one of those and sliding fast toward fascism. The Chinese proverb you cite should be in every news room in the nation --

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names."

And because it won't ever be, we should start calling news organizations by the right name -- propaganda ministries.
+38 # unclewags 2012-01-15 13:12
Quoting RMDC:
Thanks, Jonathan. Nice clear overwiew of what lawyers like to call "the slippery slope." We are indeed on one of those and sliding fast toward fascism. The Chinese proverb you cite should be in every news room in the nation --

"The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names."

And because it won't ever be, we should start calling news organizations by the right name -- propaganda ministries.

Thank you, Thank you, Jonathan ... You are the "Clarion Call" to awaken our Constitutionall y loyal citizens to the threats to Liberty being unleashed by those in powers; the Republi-CONS and the Demon-Crats. "Don't Thread on Me"; "Give me Liberty or Give me Death" by the hand of which Obama and Bush have threatened to permanently "SILENCE" us.
+19 # Obwon 2012-01-16 07:59
Apparently we're not brave enough to have freedom!

Of course, at any time in our lives, we could have easily fallen fatal victim to criminals. Yet, that was not seen as cause sufficient to deprive the accused of a day in court.

Terrorism can provide no bigger threat than to kill a number of people, just as criminals might and have. Yet, terrorism is seen as a need to put absolute power back in the hands of a President, making him or her a king in their own right.

Is there any real difference between whim and secret evidence? If so, how does one go about proving it?

Try to imagine if Bush/Cheney had these powers Obama has said he won't use. These powers are there and they will remain there, for the next President to decide what to do with them.

Of course, history says that these powers will be used until they either make coupes possible, or provoke civil war. Whether it will take a year, ten years or more, that will be the final result. Unless "we the people" can force our elected officials to back down now!
+13 # Rita Walpole Ague 2012-01-15 18:54
Yes, RMDC, Jonathan is due a big thanks. With a Dem. Pres. named Andrew Jackson hanging in my family tree, my once upon a time Proud to Be An American logo is now: ASHAMED TO BE AN AMERICAN.

And my 2012 election mantra is:

HOPE and CHANGE? NOT! No Bomb Ah!!!
+18 # Obwon 2012-01-16 07:49
We've traded our freedoms and rights for safety, now we have neither!
+88 # artful 2012-01-15 11:57
Apparently there no longer exists any question of whether we are lying to ourselves. We are in fact playing a great game of "Let's Pretend" we are a democracy. Obama may think he can hide from this last signing, by saying he will never use those powers. But a President of the Republican pursuasion will never hesitate. Eventually we will have one, and heaven help us then.
+36 # unclewags 2012-01-15 13:16
Quoting artful:
Apparently there no longer exists any question of whether we are lying to ourselves. We are in fact playing a great game of "Let's Pretend" we are a democracy. Obama may think he can hide from this last signing, by saying he will never use those powers. But a President of the Republican pursuasion will never hesitate. Eventually we will have one, and heaven help us then.

Obama's words that he "will never use powers" are not only hollow ... they are blatantly dishonest ... because he has so signed to assign those powers to any "heirs to his throne".
+5 # warrior woman 2012-01-17 06:52
These words are used for those who "trust" him. Like a bad date, in my opinion.
+52 # John Gill 2012-01-15 14:40
Agreed. I think it's time we stopped playing "Let's Pretend" that it makes a difference whether the president elect is a Democrat or a Republican too. That is another lie we need to stop telling ourselves. It's lovely that he "hesitates." But wait..did he hesitate to order the extra-judicial assassination of an American citizen? No. It is, I am afraid, in part, our blind, faithful identification with one party, and the illusion of choice that our so called "two" party system offers, that has distracted us from this slippery slope we've been tumbling down for some time now. To yell "Never Vote Republican," is to suggest that there is "ultimately" a difference between the "two" parties that in the end serve the ONE corporate oligarchy.
+7 # motamanx 2012-01-15 18:32
Once upon a time Ralph Nader made the infamous statement that it didn't matter whether we voted Republican or Democrat, and so many people didn't vote at all. And the winner that time was: George W. Bush. So, in the end, it DID matter.
+14 # impeachemall 2012-01-16 15:26
Quoting motamanx:
Once upon a time Ralph Nader made the infamous statement that it didn't matter whether we voted Republican or Democrat, and so many people didn't vote at all. And the winner that time was: George W. Bush. So, in the end, it DID matter.

Uh, no, it's clear that it didn't matter in 2008 -- O is continuing W's policies of fascism here at home and war and empire around the world.

The problem is that we don't get to select the candidates we vote among. The corporate men behind the curtain pick them for us, and they'll never pick one who'll deviate off the path prepared by the military-indust rial complex.

If they'd suspected O was gonna change anything for the better, he'd have been dead before he could be inaugurated.
+5 # John Gill 2012-01-16 18:11
Absolutely. I am with you all the way up to the "dead before inauguration" thing. Not quite ready to go there. The biggest problem with it being that if you are correct in suggesting that the corporations pick the candidates, (and I totally agree,) why then, would the assassination thing ever even come up? I suspect rather that some few candidates, like Bobby Kennedy, for example, managed to make their way to the top of the list without that kind of corporate backing, and perhaps such a thing was still possible in the 60s.
+93 # shortonfaith 2012-01-15 12:12
I can answer that. Everyone who watched the 99ers be beaten & covered with pepper spray can answer that.
We are "not" free anymore. We are slaves to the Bankers, Wall Street corporations & the forever WAR machine. Our body cavities are scanned at the airports & our papers are checked on the streets. Your cell phone is your dog collar & the money you keep in your bank is not yours any longer. Just try & transfer a larger sum without having it monitored.

That old slaying of being a "slave to the man" applies to everyone now. And don't speak up because they can monitor everything. Keep you head down & your thoughts to yourself. You've lost all your safety nets & can longer even sell your home to escape. Every politician who voted to detain you without trail is no longer on your side. That was an open declaration of their positions.

Be very afraid.
+37 # unclewags 2012-01-15 13:23
"Be afraid.... be very afraid."
I would admonish you to be very afraid ... yet very brave. As brave as a decent person, although very afraid...
would venure, with caution, into an inferno to rescue a fellow human being. Be brave ... venure into the public arena of fiery debate and rescue our right to liberty from the authoritarian Obama and Bush mentalities of our nation.
+46 # John Locke 2012-01-15 14:03
Shortonfaith: This is not the time to be afraid... "it is time to "lose" all fear of government... if we have no fear, then the government will fear us".... The government can kill a life form but not an idea, and Freedom, is an idea, that can not be destroyed. It will forever live in the hearts of man... too many millions of people before us have died for this same idea, and i fear many more will before this is resolved once again...I pose this question, what is life without freedom?...with out freedom there is nothing else to lose....
+65 # noitall 2012-01-15 12:47
Anyone out there surprised? Anyone actually listening to the likes of Zinn, Chomsky, or numerous others shouldn't be. But, ironically enough, their wisdom was trumped by FOX NOISE for christ sake! Now your grandfathers, fathers, and sons have officially died for NOTHING. Now we know why greed and sloth are sins in your bible. Now that its done, it'll take a lot of blood to change it back; like money, freedom flows one way: away from the stupid.
+31 # unclewags 2012-01-15 13:33
"Like money, freedom flows away from the stupid." Indeed, the "stupidified" are being multiplied by the entertainment/ mass media industry which are the handmaidens of corporacity, beuracricy, and the MIC. Minds are being shaped and controlled, to political passivity, by the allures of instant gratification and greed promulgated by Madison Avenue and
K Street.
+32 # James Marcus 2012-01-15 13:03
Time to take back our nation... from the Money People, the Bureaucrats who do their bidding, the Fear Mongers who nurture the demise of our Freedoms, and ALL their Media Liars who pretend it isn't so.
+17 # angelfish 2012-01-15 13:11
Sadly true, Professor Turley. The Neo-Cons are turning us into a Gulag with less and less freedoms, all the while professing that "less Government is More", when in reality they want to legislate EVERYTHING! Taking away Rights already Hard won, especially, by women and minorities! Take heed, fellow Citizens. Do NOT allow them to finagle our Rights out from under us! Register and VOTE on Election Day 2012! The People, UNITED, will NEVER be defeated!
+28 # John Gill 2012-01-15 13:15
Stick a fork in us. We're done. And we made it so easy, too. It's like talking to people who paid for tickets to see what turned out to be an awful movie. So often they have nothing but good to say about it. I mean, somewhere down deep inside, they KNOW it stinks, but they PAID for it, so it HAS to be good. That used to be, from my point of view, the major difference between people I knew who declared themselves Republicans, and those who identified as Democrats. The Democrats claimed ownership of and responsibility for their country, and so reserved the right to criticize. The Republicans simply identified themselves as AMERICANS, "right or wrong" and were willing to see their countrymen beaten, arrested, or even shot for declaring a different opinion. That's where blind nationalism leads. The puppetmasters behind our "government" played us well following 9/11. Well, I bought my ticket to the Obama show, and it STINKS. Best of luck to us.
+46 # DaveM 2012-01-15 13:35
We should also take serious note of the militarization of police departments, especially over the past decade, and the increasing use of SWAT teams, originally designed for hostage rescues, to serve search warrants. People are killed regularly during such "no-knock" searches when, believing themselves to be the victims of violent criminals, attempt to arm themselves or just happened "to have something shiny in their hands".

A number of police departments are now equipped with heavy weaponry including light tanks. Are we asked to believe that these will be used to apprehend murderers? Rapists? Shoplifters?

A quote from Abraham Maslow may well stand as an excellent warning for the situation we now face: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail".
+30 # Patch 2012-01-15 13:40
A few years ago Time Magazine did a report on what percentage of freedom countries around the world had. Burma was lowest with zero percent while Denmark was highest at 100 percent. Canada was about 92 percent and the United States was at 85 percent. I wish I had kept the article and had more figures. These are the ones I remember. I think at this time the USA wouldn't even come in at 85 percent.
+10 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-01-15 20:19
With right-wing Domnionist-fund amentalist Stephen Harper in power in Canada, we're not doing too well here either.
+3 # MidwestTom 2012-01-15 13:44
We have a Federal government that is constantly entering out lives and telling us what we can and cannot do. The state of Oklahoma last year passed a bill banning Islamic law in the state. Whether you agree or disagree, the people of Oklahoma wanted it. However, the Federal courts then intervened and cancelled this dually passed bill. This country is reaching the explosive stage due to divergent politics of the red and blue states, and the desire of each group to use the power of the Federal Government to force their view on those who oppose it. Examples include Gay marriage, Choice, Prayer in school, voter registration, EPA regulation enforcement.
+3 # kyzipster 2012-01-16 06:32
On the other side of this issue is the majority forcing its views on the minority. The US Constitution and court system is supposed to protect us from mob rule. It doesn't matter if I agree with the people of OK but the opinion of a federal court and a proper interpretation of the Constitution does matter.
+23 # John Locke 2012-01-15 13:49
This was a great article as usual, and should wake up those who still believe Obama is a good person, a liberal!..., He is a traitor to this country and all it stands for like hie predicessor GW Buch...and even further back all the way to Regan...we are no longer a free nation. There is no due process, the 4th, 5th, and 14th amendmendts have now been avoided... one man can now be the prosecutor, judge, jury and pronounce sentence this Homeland defense bill there any doubt we have lost the republic... the Money class "Wall Street" appears for now to have won...will there be a counter revolution?
+24 # Baka 2012-01-15 14:34
I wish I would see more columns like this - Where is the New York Times?
+24 # disgusted American 2012-01-15 16:33
Lying to us or covering up what b/c most jounalists don't have the guts to tell the truth.

Remember that the newspapers are owned by the corporations and/or dictated to by the government to some degree, thus, much of what is printed on their pages is political posturing depending on each one's bias.
+23 # mgurney 2012-01-15 21:22
Quoting Baka:
I wish I would see more columns like this - Where is the New York Times?

The New York Times like the rest of mainstream media are owned by the corporate-milit ary complex that owns our government...
+25 # Scott479 2012-01-15 14:50
Thanks, Barack, for putting ice upon that slippery slope...
+17 # disgusted American 2012-01-15 16:34
Wonder how many dumb-dumbs are still going to vote for him b/c they are terrified of Republicans.

That's the scariest part.
+19 # mgurney 2012-01-15 21:26
Scarier still is the belief in either party...they both are owned by the same corporate-milit ary complex...we need to clean out Washington...
+11 # mgurney 2012-01-15 21:30
Excellent article Jonathan - thank you
+5 # kyzipster 2012-01-16 06:35
A belief that one party is less evil than its extremist opposition is not 'dumb dumb' in my opinion, it's a fact. On the issues discussed in this article they are on in the same on many other issues they are not. I'm looking forward to SS & Medicare when I retire.
0 # leedeegirl 2012-01-17 23:40
Quoting disgusted American:
Wonder how many dumb-dumbs are still going to vote for him b/c they are terrified of Republicans.

That's the scariest part.

and, i suppose, YOU are NOT terrified of the Republicans (especially THIS crop of Republicans) ... ?
+28 # WaldenPond 2012-01-15 15:31
There is at least one more power acquired by the U.S. government since 9/11:
Article 6 declares that international treaties are the supreme law of the land. Consider the treaty violations since 9-11:
1) Geneva Conventions against torture;
2) UN Charter prohibiting attacking or threatening to attack other nations;
3) UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, protocol on child soldiers as victims of war, not war criminals.
+19 # ozken 2012-01-15 16:20
I would like to know how many Americans get to read articles like this? Can't be many otherwise wouldn't there be a revolt against these practices and legislation. It has taken the English speaking peoples centuries to aquire these freedoms and America has managed in the space of a decade to squander them. Best of luck to the ordinary powerless man or women with that!
+34 # Anarchist 23 2012-01-15 16:21
I read this book. It's called 'The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich' by William Shirer and you ought to refer to Chapter 8 Life in the Third Reich since you will recognize some of those very provisions cited above! It's 1933-37 all over again! Spoiler Alert: it doesn't end well
+11 # CandH 2012-01-16 00:07
Hm, so who is going to be the "Liberation of the US citizens from Tyranny/Fascism " forces on our shores? How many citizens died in Germany in that effort (collateral damage?) What was the total cost of collapse of that country to its citizens? How or did it recover from the financial/milit ary onslaught (US military bases still present?)

The point: much of WWI and II opposing forces were supported by the same financiers. War and chaos is profitable, and eventually leads the financiers to solidify their total domination of those actively involved in it. At least that's what history tell us anyway.

Naomi Klein calls it Shock Doctrine. It's an apt descriptor for why "austerity" is the G8 name-of-the-gam e now, despite the obvious and statistical facts showing the spiraling descent into further recession/depre ssion as a result, worldwide. It will "crush" us all into total submission, one way or another.
+21 # seeuingoa 2012-01-15 16:55
"slippery slope towards fascism"

Dear friends:

+18 # Texan 4 Peace 2012-01-15 18:23
Angelfish: "Register and vote in 2012"? Given that Obama has only deepened the restrictions on civil liberties that Republican administrations set in motion, who are you suggesting we vote for?

Anyone who doesn't think we have political prisoners in this country should spend some time in U.S. prisons. I do (as a volunteer), and am appalled by what I learn there.
+15 # CandH 2012-01-15 23:52
Okay, I'm going to post this, even with hesitation to do so, but knowing that other posters mentioned voting/Constitu tional Rights:

"There isn’t much time in which to revive the Constitution. One more presidential term with no habeas corpus and no due process for US citizens and with torture and assassination of US citizens by their own government, and it will be too late. Tyranny will have been firmly institutionaliz ed, and too many Americans from the lowly to the high and mighty will have been implicated in the crimes of the state. Extensive guilt and complicity will make it impossible to restore the accountability of government to law." "America’s Last Chance" by Paul Craig Roberts (
+14 # Robyn 2012-01-15 19:02
The saddest thing is that other countries tend to look towards America for guidance. Now there is no one to lead the way. America is fast becoming Amerika and other countries such as China and Saudi Arabia think that human rights are a rather quaint idea and not to be taken seriously.
Well it's easy to see now that things are not going to end well.
+19 # futhark 2012-01-15 19:04
This article is the BEST summary of the things that have gone wrong with the United States of America in the several decades since my childhood. It also makes clear the danger of being railroaded into supporting a lying hypocrite for high office on the basis of his slick rhetorical skills.

Never vote Plutocratic! Never vote for anyone supporting any aspect of the war mongering security state mentality!
+18 # mikecohen 2012-01-15 19:15
Maybe a canary in the coal mine is the state of whistleblower laws, both federal and state. Even when the law provides whistleblower protection (which is rare enough), the reality is usually the destruction of the whistleblower (with the connivance of the courts). The immoral Republican monsters on the U.S. Supreme Court even, not long ago, held that a corporate whistleblower could be fired with impunity for reporting criminal conduct internally.
+24 # Whyyouwantmyname? 2012-01-15 20:30
How is it so few civilians and legislators are alarmed by this? This is TERRIFYING. Mid-yawn, our president signs a law taking away our most fundamental constitutional laws... then tells us not to worry ("trust me"), since he would never actually use the total power he's just given himself and the government... ?!?!?!? Thank you for this article Mr. Turley. And thanks VERY much for the comparison to China, the Chinese proverb and highlighting American hypocrisy in international affairs.
+15 # cordleycoit 2012-01-15 23:24
Anyone thinking that the Republic is a place of liberty ought become clued. Travel is restricted, speech is monitored, internet watched, artists arrested, musicians turned into corporate parrots and we are all watched day and night by surveillance cameras. We are the vassals of the bankers. I hear the number of detention camps is up to seventy two yet the left press does not speak out.
+3 # Byjer24 2012-01-15 23:56
I'm shocked that not one comment has made a reference to Ron Paul. He has been screaming about the systematic removal of our liberties in the name of "freedom" for 30 years! This is his whole platform, people! Wake up from your trance and realize that Republicans and Demcrats are just opposite wings on the same bird of prey. Think about how many more voters are taking a look at him this time around and liking what they hear. His message hasn't changed one iota. The climate has changed. It makes no difference whether you vote for Obama or Romney. You will get the same results. Out of control spending and war. Only one man has refused to vote for a pay raise for himself every time. Only one man has rejected his cushy congressional pension. Only one man has never voted against the constitution. I'm not a kook. I'm a 40 yr old father of 2 that works in IT for a major bond rating agency in NYC. ...and I'm tired of all the bull! We've been at war for most of my adult life. Do you think the natural state of this country is war? How many countries do we need to bomb at once? Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, and Yemen are all getting drone bombed. And then we send them lots of money, too! Insanity. how can Israel be our special ally if we're sending it's enemies more money then they get?!? C'mon people. Stop being led around by the nose and being told what to think. Vote for Dr. Ron Paul.
+3 # futhark 2012-01-16 09:51
Yes, I'm registered Green Party but supporting Dr. Paul as the only candidate with an explicitly stated platform of phasing out military intervention as a foreign policy instrument. The over-bloated American military establishment serves only the interests of the plutocracy and weapons contractors, who are usually one and the same. Drone strike assassinations do not make me feel any safer. They make me ashamed to be an American. I'm glad Dr. Paul has raised the issues that other politicians shirk.

Once the cancerous militarism has been excised from the American body politic, the other issues of energy, climate change, and economic security need to be addressed.
+9 # Larkrise 2012-01-16 00:38
Both Obama and Romney will take us down the road to perdition,even farther than we are now.The problem, of course, is that we have no decent choice. Both men lie, spin, deceive and are owned by Wall Street and the 1%. Our only hope is a Third Party, but the Sheeple have yet to suffer enough to support it. Still, we need to get started in that direction. Both the Rethuglicans and the Dimocrats are corrupt beyond redemption. They cannot and will not purge themselves of their misdeeds. I had hoped someone would have the courage to challenge Obama in a primary. Sad to say, courage is in short supply. I will not vote for him nor Romney. I have my own moral principles; and intend to go to my Maker with them. However, I will vote at the state level. I have no trust or confidence left in Obama. The NDAA is too dangerous to overlook. Let him struggle in a squeaker. It might tone down his arrogance. Look toward 2016 and hope we survive to create real change, not chump change.
+10 # BobbyLip 2012-01-16 00:45
I try to take heart from the notion that they can't imprison us ALL. But of course they already have. It is very difficult not to despair. History will not judge us kindly. Too bad none of us will still be around when that history is written.
Thank you, Jonathan Turley, for continuing to speak out. Too bad you'll never be nominated to the Supreme Court.
+1 # panhead49 2012-01-16 13:45
Quoting BobbyLip:
I try to take heart from the notion that they can't imprison us ALL. But of course they already have. It is very difficult not to despair. History will not judge us kindly. Too bad none of us will still be around when that history is written.
Thank you, Jonathan Turley, for continuing to speak out. Too bad you'll never be nominated to the Supreme Court.

Maybe they can't 'imprison' us all - maybe they'll just leave a 'free range section' of the country for the uber wealthy to roam and fence we hoi paloi off so as not to offend our Wall Street Overlords by the mere sight of us.
+3 # mikecohen 2012-01-16 01:55
Another interesting point: Mr. Turley left out one of the main recent events negativing our democracy, and, weirdly, one which I have heard him say that he supported (or something close to that), namely the Citizens United decision.
-2 # chick 2012-02-08 04:39
That is because Mr. Turley is a Republican under his skin. I once liked him but I am starting to realize he is not what he says he is.

Just suppose this Malaki or whatever his name is had bombed Empire State or the other big one in New York and killed a thousand Americans, How would you feel then?
You would be saying why didn't they get this monster when they knew he was a terrorist. American or not, I personally am glad they got him before he did any damage. If you are a decent American you have nothing to fear. God knows we have terrorists right here in our country and American or not they deserve to be arrested.

Think about that, how many decent American lives were saved because we had this rotten one arrested. Keep defending the American terrorists Mr. Turley you sure do not have my vote.
+4 # J. Glenn Evans 2012-01-16 03:38
Yes, our freedoms are at great risk and it is the two major parties that have put us in this position. I believe our best bet is to support Rocky Anderson and the new Justice Party
J. Glenn Evans
+10 # reiverpacific 2012-01-16 11:31
You've been lying to yourselves about "Land of the free" for decades. Freedom in a plutocracy is for those who own it and are able to apply the shackles to those who resist them. Since when has this not been a fact?
The biggest combat in these "Fragmented States" is in constant vigilance by those who desire true freedom (of thought, speech, spiritual belief, movement and self-determinat ion) to watch out all around for those who would take it away from you to enrich themselves or their ideology which tends to be bought, including the current and recent governments, judiciary and military, bolstered by an ever more bland and compliant owner media and sopoforic constant diet of infotainment.
All this whilst slapping other nations on the wrist for violations of freedoms that are routinely violated at home.
I've traveled the world and heard constantly that many so-called third world inhabitants would "Like to visit the USA but have no desire to live there", illegal immigrants notwithstanding (every invasive, Imperial nation has had this "White Man's burden as a direct result of invasion and industries founded on Imperial gain for a privileged few).
"Occupy" is a good start to push back if we can keep solid and not nit-pick each other or succumb to the divide and conquer tactics of the powerful.
+9 # corey 2012-01-16 15:56
I keep telling all the fools out there that are attacking Obama that he is just following Bush and doing the same thing. When GW Bush was the president, and his second term was coming to an end, and we all know, as always, the next president would be from the "other" party, I used to tell folks that I was going to LMAO when a Democrat was in the WH, because all they will do is complain about how horrible this is. I would also say I couldnt wait to say the same thing to them, that they were saying to me: "If you don't like it, leave the country"! So, even though I believe the US government is the largest terrorist orgainization/c orporation/enti ty ever to be allowed to exist, I am still laughing and telling those on the "right" this fun little story about what I invisioned would happen when a Democrat was in the White House. The same thing happened when Bill Clinton was president, all the white Christian militia terrorists crawled out from under the is unfortunate that most Americans are so uneducated about their own government. 9/11 opened my eyes, and I am sure it opened the eyes of many others. I can see how people around the world just laugh at us and love to see us fall, because of our arrogance and terrorism around the world. Though I am glad I was born in the USA, I am ashamed at what the US government has been allowed to do. I even contacted the International Criminal Court, but the US government doesnt follow International law, yet expects all others to.
+11 # RMDC 2012-01-16 19:40
Sometimes I think about how 9-11 and its aftermath will be written about 100 years from now. Will anyone be shocked by the blowing up of three buildings? I doubt it. In scope of things three buildings hit and 3000 people killed will be nothing when compared to the collapse of the whole United States and a dozen or more wars stated in the middle east, Central Asia, and Africa.

The Project for a New Amereican Century were right. They wrote a year before 9-11 that their dream of a fully militarized and aggressive US could not be achieved without some crystallizing event like a "new Pearl Harbor." The transformation of the world is just what the neo-cons were dreaming of in the few years before 9-11.
+3 # ilenewells 2012-01-17 11:20
One area where we have let the "protection" of civil liberties go too far is when a psychotic person can be allowed to refuse treatment, by a gun and shoot a US Congresswoman. Jared Loughner is now in prson for this, but if his civil liberties had been a little less protected, he may have received the appropriate treatment he needed to prevent such a tragedy, and may have recovered to become a productive member of society. Now we will spend millions of dollars to treat him - get him as close to sane as possible - only to try him and excecute him.

Please learn more about Assisted Outpatient Laws, which if used properly could have brought Mr. Loughner into treatment. Also please learn more about a Medicaid Law called the Medicaid Institutes for Mental Diseases (IMD) Exclusion. It denies coverage to Medicaid eligible adults who need in-patient treatment. The lack of access to treatment, combined with an inept community mental health system that does not account for the many who are too sick to understand they need treatment, has taken us from treating the most seriously ill in hospitals to allowing them to lanquish on the streets (200,000), in prison (one MILLION), and to die all too young.

There is a fine line between protecting somoene's civil liberties and allowing them to be a prisoner of their own mind. Read "I WAS PERSON" in the Writing for Godot section. Also go to my website:
+1 # CrypticitpyrC 2012-01-17 18:44
If You Don't Like it, Stop Helping Right Wingers Win!

See, the problem with us progressives is, many of us think we know all about issues, but we don’t. We get so bogged down in pointless minutiae, we completely lose sight of the issues themselves. The funny thing is, some "progressives" PRIDE themselves for knowing about millions of small details on every issue, at the same time they lose sight of the big picture, and what politics is REALLY about.

Take the NDAA, for example. Oh, my, are some people on the left pissed off about this! It started with the professional left, but a lot of far lefties took up the mantle.

The entire republic is about to go up in flames because the president might actually be able to imprison some non-citizens indefinitely during a war! Gosh, when has that ever happened, right? And it’s ALL President Obama’s fault! That hopey changey bastard! How DARE he sign a bill that passed with a veto-proof majority in which 2 of its 565 pages were flawed?

more at:
0 # Tim64 2012-01-17 18:52
The UNITED STATES isn't what it once was no more... After the past and what it was to what it is now there's a difference in the times... The freedom you speak of to do as we would as Americans, was out there for all of us yes it was... But when the time came that enough individuals went an abused all those rights in ways that they did... They had to be taken away from us as well as them at the same time...

It was those in the 70's then came those of the 80's, 90's, 2000, we're just into the second year of the 2nd decade of the 21st Century... Most of us typing on here that were born in those 50's & 60's, Hell Yea this time is difference from those days of our new start... Same as it was for our own Moms & Dads going back when it was them at the start and they were so young til our ages now...
+2 # ljblinddog 2012-01-17 19:45
This is because we are not the land of the brave. We are the land of the constrained and the home of the fearful. Perhaps it started with the first Native American we killed.
-1 # obliterait 2012-01-17 21:10
What Freedom?
You are put in jail or fined for:
-Not buying insurance.
-Not paying "rent to the state"* (Property tax).
-Not going to the Doctor? New healthcare.
-Smoking marijuana instead of drinking alcohol.
-Making fireworks.
-Making your own drugs.
-Not renewing drivers license.
-Carrying a gun in some states.
-Owning or buying a new machine gun.
-Having loud mufflers.
-Not wearing a motorcycle helmet in some states.
-Having a clothes line in some neighborhoods.
-Not having up to date stickers on license plate.
-Paying taxes late.
-Having long hair for some jobs (You don't get fined, but you don't get the job. But some people might have incarnated to go to barbars to help them have a job.)
-Having west coast TV broadcast, if you have local channels from satelite TV company.
-Deciding which drugs you want by yourself, and buying them without a doctor.
-Having a secret U.S. or secret foreign bank account.

*A yearly "rent to the state" is an idea from the Communist Manifesto.
PS What are the tax rates in the countries where people are protesting? Do they want our freedoms, or are they already more free?
+3 # Iva 123 2012-01-17 21:43
I spent 25 years in a communist country. To me is all deja vue. Creating imaginary enemy, tell its citizens to be afraid, and under pretense of security totally control all citizens. I lived through my friends arrests, persecution, attempt murders,secret police in my home, father taken for all day interrogation and not knowing it he will be let out. All that voted for NDAA2012 should resign. They do not serve people, but someone else. I was very disappointed that President signed it.
It is very sad moment for Americans.
0 # kiawase 2012-10-13 12:08
read about this in the le monde diplomatique and I am glad there are still voices like Jonathan's within the US. I a very troubled about what happenend since 2001 and afraid that history may again repeat itself (compare the '3rd Reich'). Obama is a big disapointment.

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