Constitutional rights and Acts of Sedition

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Should America grant terrorists constitutional rights or not? This is an issue that I struggle with. I like things to be black or white, but this issue seems to fall into a gray area. Common sense says of course not, they are terrorists and we are at war. They were captured on the battlefield. How can we grant them the same privileges as US citizens? We have to get intelligence out of them anyway possible. Maybe we can stop another 9/11 if the intelligence that we obtain is timely and accurate. We do not have time to play nice when lives are at risk. After all, this isn’t just some common criminal; this is a person that wants to kill as many people as he possibly can. An Islamic terrorist is man that values his death in martyrdom more than his life on earth.

So what is the problem: why do people want to give these monsters a fair trial? I know, it is crazy to even consider giving terrorists constitutional rights. I wrote a whole article explaining why KSM should not get a trial in federal court. I am aware of the problems involved with holding a public trial for terrorists, but on the other hand I do not trust the government. There is this line in the declaration of independence that says the following: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. If you go down further you will see a list of grievances against King George. They include the following:

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offenses

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies.


The importance of the Declaration of Independence

What does the Declaration of Independence have to do with terrorists? The Declaration of Independence is the document that America’s founders used to overthrow a tyrannical government. They did not want to submit to the authority of King George anymore. They determined that he was a tyrant, and used the Declaration of Independence to explain why.

If the founders were right and we agree with the founding of America, then we have to conclude that all men are created equal and have certain unalienable rights that are endowed by their creator. The Declaration of Independence does not say that all Americans have those rights; it says that all men have those rights. That includes terrorists that are not American citizens. America does not give us those rights, the Constitution does not give us those rights; the founders tell us that out rights come from our creator.

Why should we defend the terrorists? We should defend the rights of terrorists because I do not want the government to label me, or any other normal citizen as a terrorist. We already had the Department of Homeland Security release a report that warned law enforcement about right wing extremists. It said that law enforcement should keep an eye out for returning veterans, supporters of the second amendment, and people with Ron Paul bumper stickers. That covers a lot of people from all sides of the political spectrum. It is dangerous to create a mindset among the people that the government can ignore the laws of the land as long as we have a crisis. The US government does have precedent in place telling us that the government can suspend constitutional rights during wartime.

Historic use of war time powers

U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 9
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.

President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the United States Civil War. He justified his actions by saying that the existence of the United States was in jeopardy. In the case, Ex Parte Merryman (1861), the Supreme Court ruled that only Congress can suspend habeas corpus. The supreme court went on to say that even if Congress did pass a law suspending habeas corpus, only members of the military could have be held and tried by a military commission. Lincoln ignored the ruling saying that his oath to support, defend and protect the constitution required him to take necessary actions. It wasn’t until 1863 that congress finally did pass the habeas corpus act that formally suspended habeas corpus. It was a move that was not supported by everyone as displayed in this excerpt from the time:

New York Weekly Journal of Commerce, June 6, 1861. “Habeas Corpus” (excerpt)

The remark of one of the New York papers that the writ was “originally intended to secure the liberty of loyal men,” and that “it would be a gross perversion of its powers to employ it as the protecting shield of rebels,” is a specimen of the very tyranny which the writ of habeas corpus is designed to overcome. The writ was originally and always intended as a defence of the subject against the tyranny of the government; and nowhere is such defence more needed than under a government like our own. . .

Lincoln’s government went on to attack the press if they took editorial positions that were critical of the war. The Chicago Times was shut down, but only for one day. In first confiscation act of 1861 gave Lincoln the power to seize printing presses from anyone that was printing materials that aided abetted or promoted the enemies position.

Abraham Lincoln had his critics
Abraham Lincoln had his critics

Sedition Act of 1918

Another example of U.S. government suppressing our rights during wartime is the Sedition Act of 1918. President Woodrow Wilson passed the act which forbade Americans from using "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, Flag of the United States, or armed forces during war. The act also allowed the Postmaster General to deny mail delivery to dissenters of government policy during wartime. It was so abusive that congress repealed it in 1920.

Conclusions

There are other examples of the United States Government obstructing Citizen’s rights during war time. To go along with Lincoln and Wilson, we also have FDR with the internment of the Japanese, and George W. Bush and the suspension of habeas corpus for terrorists. That brings us all the way back to present day. How do we determine if these special powers should be applied by the government? This enemy in the War on Terror is not a nation and the war appears to be open ended. Should we allow the U.S. government to use it’s discretion about who is entitled to what rights? Will these determinations go on until “radical Islam” is eliminated? That will give the government war powers forever, since radical Islam will never be completely eliminated. It seems to go against what the Declaration of Independence tells us about all men being created equal. At the same time the government has an obligation to protect its Citizens from terrorists that want to kill as many of us as possible.

Everyone can come to their own way of thinking on this. It isn’t really black and white. I rely on my common sense and say someone like KSM should face a military tribunal, and others should be treated based on their individual circumstances. If we come to the point where ordinary citizens start getting lumped in with terrorists, then the government needs to be held in check. We can allow a little leeway when dealing with terrorists that want to kill us. We can not allow the government to use that inch. that we are willing to give in order to fight terrorism, as a way take a mile. Then the government would have the authority to attack the civil rights of ordinary Citizens.

2010 Copyright Michiganman567

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Comments 35 comments

James Agbogun profile image

James Agbogun 6 years ago

It is reasonable if a terrorist like the christmas day suicide bomber is tried in a Civil Court because it was an attempted direct attack on home soil. But how do we harmonise a situation where a man is arrested from one sovereign state to be tried in another? Although with an aversion for the disregard for sovereignty, Terrorists arrested abroad could only be tried in the military tribunals or simply by influencing their trials in the countries where they carry out the attack, according to the dictates of the constitution of that land which might be rather more severe. This should be the best solution.

I should commend you for the way you balanced the debate and kept neutral leaving the reader to decide.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks James, I think that the Christmas bomber is an easy one. He was arrested by law enforcement, not the military. I don't think that he knows a whole lot, so federal court for him is not a big deal. He is a small fry, so we aren't going to get a lot of information from him. But, if law enforcement wanted to use enhanced interrogations on him, then I have a problem with allowing him in civil court.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago

I don't know about all the instances of abridgements of rights that you cited, but I think Roosevelt's internment of Japanese-Americans was not one of his greatest accomplishments. It's regarded by historians and Constitutional lawyers as a shameful chapter in American history. Seems to me that if we don't observe our own legal heritage and international law, the terrorists have won.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago

How about this one--targeted killings of U.S. citizens?

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/05-11


someonewhoknows profile image

someonewhoknows 6 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

Well,I hear the terrorists are getting cleaver about how they are going about there suicide bombing.They are now using breast implants on the woman suicide bombers with liquid explosives inside the implants.

As for constitutional rights,personally I don't believe any of us who consider ourselves "CITIZEN'S of the UNITED STATES.CORPORATE CITIZENS of a corporation by that name have continental constitutional rights.A corporation has control over what it's employees can and cannot do.

I'm a citizen of one of the states of the continental united states.As far as I know the the only citizens the federal government has are the people born ,or living in the district of Columbia,where the federal government conducts it's business,and the territories that haven't yet become states.It's strange the original thirteen colonies created the federal government,and all of the rest of the states that followed had to petition the federal government ,or the original thirteen states in addition to those states that followed them in order to become a state.However the constitution did not give any rights to the people or the states,it simply acknowledges or enumerates only a few of our recognized God given rights.Any rights not enumerated by the constitution are reserved to the people or the states.

Anyone who is not legally bound by the united states constitution's laws, does not have any rights under our constitution.But,it seems the federal government,wants to set a president,by changing that.Then again ,like I said,the constitution of the corporation called the UNITED STATES is not the same constitution and that corporation is limited by it can do within the states.In fact federal courts were not allowed to be built within any state,until after the economy failed and the depression caused the states to be blackmailed by the federal reserve.I don't know if it was not knowing what to do ,or cowerdice but the states gave in to the federal blackmail.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks for the comments Ralph. I agree that FDR made a bad decision. There are writings from the time criticizing him for the move. Thanks for the link, I'll have to look it over and get back to you.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago

Someonewhoknows, just curious, where did you hear about the breast implant bombs? It doesn't sound plausible to me. Do you have a pipeline into the CIA?


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

Actually someonewhoknows is right Ralph.

http://www.freep.com/article/20100205/NEWS07/10020...

As for applying constitutional rights to Terrorists hell no , and one reason why is because no matter how much we try to simulate fairness , they will never stop. Because they are nurtured to hate us from birth.This is a Military matter strictly. And Eric Holder really went beyond the scope of his responsibilities. But of course that is the man who called us " A nation of Cowards ". So he is not fit for his post in the first place.

It is not a debate to me at all. And quite frankly let the SOBs rot I say !


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Tony, what if it is someone with loose connections. Like a masque in America that gives money to Palestinians. Then Hamas takes that money and pays suicide bombers with it? This is hypothetical, because we both know nothing would happen to the masque. For the sake of argument say that the government charged them as terrorists for funding a terrorist organization. Do you think that they should go before military tribunals? I think that there is a line that we do not want to cross. Where do you draw yours?


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

To answer your question yes I do !This is all or nothing now do not delude yourself. Even the panty bomber said there were more on the way. Diplomacy is useless. A sense of fairness is useless. I mean they are even putting bombs in breast implants now.You cannot try rational means with an irrational Ideology , simple as that.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Ralph I read your article, and I don't know what they are talking about. It could be shooting an American in the head on vacation, but I doubt it. It sounds more like killing an American because he is in a tent full of terrorists. So, the ACLU is saying that if Bin Laden hangs out with an American all the time, that we can never bomb him? It sounds like they are making something out of nothing to me. I trust the military to do the right thing.


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

Oh by the way Michiganman I do not deal in hypotheticals lets deal with fact. Olympics 1972 , USS Cole , 9-11 , embassy bombings , trains in Spain being bombed etc.etc.I could go on and on.


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago

Thanks, tony0724. I missed the Free Press article. That's my hometown paper.

Michiganman, the same thought occurred to me. If an American is hanging out with someone from Al Qaida who is targeted by a drone I don't feel sorry for him. However, it would be different, in my opinion, if the CIA were targeting the American citizen regardless of where he was and what he was doing because of their beliefs about his activities, which may or may not be accurate and true. So, for me the answer is "it depends on the circumstances."


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

Ralph please just call me Tony.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

come on, you are dealing with hypotheticals right here. You are talking about some breast bombs! I hope that they don't have to rush to make the plane.

So now the full body scanners aren't enough, the TSA agents have their excuse to cop a feel.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

So Ralph, how would the CIA killing someone in Pakistan affect you in the tiniest way?


Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 6 years ago

The title of your hub is "Who Deserves Constitutional Rights?" My answer to your question is that I'm concerned any time the CIA intentionally kills an American citizen. Citizens' rights under the Constitution apply beyond the borders of the U.S. so far as U.S. government actions are concerned. Of course our Constitution wouldn't protect a U.S. citizen in Pakistan against actions by Pakistani authorities. I'm surprised that you wouldn't be concerned over CIA executions of U.S. citizens.


tony0724 profile image

tony0724 6 years ago from san diego calif

michiganman did you look at the first post ? British Intelligence is saying breast bombs are a reality !


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Tony yes I did. They have heard chatter, I don't know what chatter is. It seems to me that swallowing a bomb would be easier.

From your Freep article:

"What we've seen is, at least, the al Qaeda explosives competence, while they are visionary with their devices, they're not terribly competent with actually being able to get something to detonate,"

We have camera's that do not function, and checkpoint that are not manned. I think we need to focus our attention on the easy things. Or maybe on keeping Somalis without passports off of planes to the United States.

@Ralph, I didn't say that I wouldn't be concerned, I asked how it would directly affect you. Thanks for answering.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

sorry I meant Nigerians not Somalians.


sneakorocksolid 6 years ago

Well when we make decisions to offer terrorists rights we are wrong on every level. They are liars they stand for anarchy and nothing else. There desire is to convert us or kill us. When you fight animals you have to show no mercy civilization is counting on it. These idiots cut off peoples heads, drag their bodies through the streets and hang them on poles. They send women and children loaded with explosives to commit suicide and kill the innocent as well. It's my firm belief these are some of satans minions and they laugh at our weakness. We have to make them fear us more than anything else then they will pay attention. They will never be civilized so thats just a waste of time.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks Sneakorocksolid,

I know what you are saying, I just think that we have to be careful not to allow our defenses against terrorism to imprison us. I value my rights over the punishment of a terrorist. You bring another question to mind, who is our enemy? Is it Islam? These people aren't going to go away.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

My vote is that the Constitution only applies to American citizens. Foreign Terrorists need not apply. But, that's just me. :-)


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

thanks for the comment James. I like that position most of the time too. It is hard to go wrong with that stance.


sheila b. profile image

sheila b. 6 years ago

Isn't it most important to get all of the intelligence we can from a terrorist? Isn't it more important to save lives than to give a terrorist the rights accorded Americans? Terrorists believe in jihad, which is the overthrow of our government, and it seems to me that in itself means they should be placed in military detention.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Sheila, My concern is more toward what the definition of a terrorist is. Can we start calling people that oppose Obama terrorists? I know that it is unlikely, but it is just something that crosses my mind. So, If we have a little terrorist I don't mind if they go easy on him. Just ruff him up a little bit. When we get a good one; then I am all for working them over.


SOBF profile image

SOBF 6 years ago from New York, NY

michiganman - The strange thing behind this entire argument is that military tribunals have a record of light sentences and constitutional challenges. There have only been three convictions under the military tribunal system and two of those terrorist are out of prison and living a free life in their home countries. The only one that is now in prison is there because he never put up a defense, boycotting the proceedings.

Since military tribunals have been put into effect by the Bush administration the outcomes are as follows:

David Hicks, charged with material support for terrorism. He entered into a plea agreement and received nine months, most of which was served in his home of Australia.

Hamdan, also charged with material support of terrorist received a 5 month sentence with the final months being served in his home in Yemen.

Ali al-Bahlul, was charged with soliciting murder and material support of terrorist. Bahlul received a life sentence but that was because he boycotted the proceedings and refused to give any type of defense.

This is the system being touted as the way to go on terrorist. I would suggest those who support putting terrorist in the hands of the military research the outcomes of those trials held in civilian courts and they will find more stringent sentencing.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

SOBF, It isn't about success or failure. People win in court all the time. It is about a system that best fits the case. If they are found not guilty by a military commission, then there isn't much else that we can do. Some people might be charged falsely, that is why we have trials. If they are clearly guilty and the military commissions start throwing out cases, then we need to change the military commissions.

Thanks for providing your information. It is a good comment.

I read some of your work, and I think there might still be hope for you. We will turn you into a conservative one of these days.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

When I grew up, citizenship was considered a very valued thing. Even going back to St Paul and the fact that he was a Roman citizen made him special. People came here and learned English and the history of the country before they became citizens.

Now it seems to mean nothing. How can some people have dual citizenship. which I don't believe used to be allowed. How can they be loyal to two countries? Why should the rights understood to be for citizen's be granted to avowed enemies.


SOBF profile image

SOBF 6 years ago from New York, NY

michiganman - Conservatives and Democratic citizens have more in common than you think, the major differences are in the politicians.

My question on the topic is why are we equating a person being tried in civilian court with citizenship? The military tribunal was activated to deal with terrorist under Bush, it was not the manner in which we have historically done things. Now, all of a sudden it is the only proper way, even though they have been proven to be more lenient than civilian courts when handing out punishment.

One must prove some benefit other than the emotional argument of “rights of citizens” to show that military tribunals are even beneficial.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Dahoglund, thanks for your comment. Haven't you heard the latest that we are all World citizens

SOBF, look at my KSM article and I think that it explains my viewpoint better.


hvacduderick 6 years ago

Ever hear of Eugene Debs ? Woodrow Wilson had him jailed because of his political beliefs. Obama would be okay with assassinating people he considers a threat to his policys. Sounds like "if your not with us your against us". Decent will not be tollerated. However he has choosen to try these "enemy combatants" in civillian courts. Seems like he would want to try them in military courts if he is willing to kill dangerous americans. I would rather see habeas corpus extended to enemy combatants than secret military trials. Seems more "American" to me.


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks for your input hvacduderick;see I agree with you more than you thought. The names sounds familiar, but I will have to look into Eugene Debs

Obama thinks that they deserve trial as long as we capture them and read them Miranda rights in the countries that our soldiers are trying to fight wars in. Then he attacks people with predator drones in countries that we are not at war with. He seems to have a bit of a consistency problem.


carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

This is an interesting, thought provoking post. Thanks!


michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 6 years ago from Michigan Author

Thanks for stopping by Carolina Muscle. I read yours today about woman language. It was funny, but I didn't comment.

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